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Thursday, 5th September 2019: Fisheries Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland seized 29 bass from two boat anglers on the South East Coast last week. The seizure was secured following a surveillance operation as part of a fisheries protection programme which aims to safeguard Ireland’s valuable fisheries resource.

The protection programme comprises of planned overt and covert patrols at various times of day and night as well as intelligence led surveillance operations. An investigation is now underway into the incident on the south east coast and a file is being prepared with a view to prosecution.

Bass are protected by specific regulations which provide for catch and release fishing only for European bass from the 1st of January - 31st of March and from the 1st of November – 31st of December. Each angler may only retain one fish per day (a fish must be in excess of 42 cms to be retained from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail) in the period from the 1st of April to the 31st of October.

David McInerney, Director of the South Eastern River Basin District at Inland Fisheries Ireland said: “This incident highlights the importance of ongoing protection efforts to protect bass and other species along our coastline. The vast array of river, lake and coastal based habitats mean that we need to utilise both traditional patrol methods and surveillance technologies to ensure that our wild fish populations are protected.”

Fisheries officers work across the entire resource which includes 74,000 kilometres of rivers and streams, 128,000 hectares of lakes and 5,500 kilometres of coastline in their attempts to apprehend those responsible for illegal fishing and environmental offences.

Members of the public are invited to report incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and illegal fishing by calling Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 24 Hour Confidential Hotline on 1890 34 74 24.

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#Angling - Anglers fishing in Ireland will now be allowed to keep one bass a day from Monday 1 October till the end of 2018.

The move follows new advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that affects all divisions around the island of Ireland.

According to this advice, recreational angling does not impact on bass stocks to the degree previously believed.

ICES also estimates a 10% higher survival rate from catch-and-release angling than previous figures.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) reminds bass anglers that a minimum size limit of 42cm still applies.

“Bass anglers have an extremely positive approach to bass conservation using catch and release alongside good handling in order to maintain the species and their recreational activity,” IFI says.

“Anglers, through their conservation-oriented ethos, have been the key stakeholders in supporting research into bass stock status over the past five years by providing catch and fish stock data, which has underpinned provision of scientific and management advice.”

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#Angling - The European Union has introduced new regulations for the Irish sea bass recreational fishery, which will operate on a catch-and-release basis for 2018.

This outcome is a result of successful negotiation by Marine Minister Michael Creed at the Fisheries Council in Brussels last week, where the initial proposal from Europe was for a complete ban on recreational angling for six months and a catch-and-release fishery for six months.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says it now awaits updated Irish legislation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to allow for the enforcement of a catch-and-release fishery in all areas of the country from 1 January 2018.

The new rule, which applies to Ireland, states: “In recreational fisheries, including from shore, in ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 7a to 7k, only catch-and-release fishing for European seabass shall be allowed. It shall be prohibited to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land European seabass caught in that area.”

The new catch-photo-release (#cprsavesfish on social media) regulation sees a consistent approach being applied throughout the Irish coastline.

The strict bass management regime currently operating for Irish waters is based on a heavily controlled and restricted recreational fishery, says IFI, which adds that bass anglers have an extremely positive approach to bass conservation, catch and release, and the requirement for good handling in order to maintain the species and their recreational activity.

IFI also acknowledges the support of anglers for its ‘citizen science’ bass conservation programme.

Anglers, through their conservation-oriented ethos, have been the key stakeholders in supporting research into bass stock status over the past five years by providing catch and fish stock data, which has underpinned provision of scientific and management advice.

Economically, the bass recreational fishery is extremely valuable to rural coastal communities.

Earlier today, IFI issued a reminder to all Irish salmon and sea trout anglers to submit their 2017 log book.

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#Bass - A Rosslare man pleaded guilty on two charges of illegal fishing for bass at a sitting of Wexford District Court on Tuesday 28 March.

Fisheries officer Stephen Byrne outlined how Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) intercepted Declan Ellard in possession of three wild bass and an 80m floating net at Carne Pier in Co Wexford on 14 April 2016. Ellard was also observed servicing the net using a boat.

Ellard had previously accepted under oath that he would never fish again at a Circuit Court hearing in 2012, during which he was prosecuted for illegal bass fishing by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

As a result of his prior conviction, prosecuting solicitor Caitriona Walsh sought an adjournment so that the matter could be dealt with in the Circuit Court with the consideration of the SFPA. Judge Chettle proceeded with the case and fined Ellard €400.

Net fishing for bass is illegal in Ireland due to low stock numbers, with angling for bass in the South East of Ireland on a ‘catch and release’ basis from January to June and a bag limit of one fish per day for anglers from July to December.

IFI and the SFPA have powers of prosecution for illegal bass fishing under the Bass (Conservation of Stocks) Regulation 2006. Those convicted of this environmental crime can be fined up to €5,000 per charge.

Angling contributes €836 million to the Irish economy annually and bass angling is a valuable resource to the South East of the country. Bass and sea anglers alone, including domestic and those visiting from abroad, have an annual expenditure of €168.6 million annually, which supports businesses and jobs in coastal communities nationwide.

David McInerney, director of the South Eastern River Basin District said: “This conviction under the Maritime Jurisdiction Act highlights that illegal fishing in the South-East will not be tolerated.

“Our fisheries officers are patrolling the waterways in overt and covert operations during the day and night with the aim of protecting and conserving this valuable fisheries resource which supports communities and provides a recreational amenity for all.”

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#Angling - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has confirmed that it is in the process of reviewing the national policies for the management of bass, pike and trout.

The policies were launched by IFI in August 2014 and have a three-year review cycle.

IFI has commenced the process of examining all relevant and appropriate data to inform the review of these policies. This process was initiated in January 2016 and includes the examination of:

  • The current stock management programme, including resource usage, fish transfer and health and safety.
  • Marketing and socio-economic information to include actual and potential economic value.
  • Scientific information to provide advice and to consider the scientific merits of the processes being currently undertaken.

An important element of each review will be a public consultation process which will be announced later in 2016. The consultations will ensure that anglers and other stakeholders have sufficient time to consider the existing policies and make submissions that will inform their review.

IFI chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne said: “The public consultation element of the reviews presents an excellent opportunity for the 273,600-strong community of Irish anglers to engage with IFI and will ensure that the decision-making process becomes better informed, more rigorous and more accountable.

"IFI is committed to on-going engagement with anglers and other stakeholders through public meetings, the National Inland Fisheries Forum, public consultations and our complaints, comments and compliment procedures.”

During an anglers’ demonstration at IFI headquarters in Citywest on 24 March, IFI received a petition signed by over 22,000 people from around the world, including a total of 1,032 Irish signatures.

A group of approximately 80 anglers protested against the implementation of the current Pike Policy, agreed with the Irish Federation of Pike Angling Clubs and the National Association of Recreational Anglers in 2014.

Commenting on this, Dr Ciaran Byrne added: “While the petition represents a small proportion of Irish anglers, IFI recognises the unified views of those who signed it and we have made contact with the protest organisers with a view to engaging with this diverse group of anglers. IFI appreciates that public policy-making can be enhanced through the active involvement and contribution of all stakeholders with an interest in particular policy developments.

“In recent weeks, many of the protesters have made their views known to IFI through our comments and complaints channels but IFI wishes to assure all anglers that they will have the opportunity to make a representation in the public consultation process on the Pike, Trout and Bass Policy reviews later this year.

"Furthermore, IFI is running a number of surveys in conjunction with the ESRI to ensure that we capture the views of our domestic anglers as comprehensively as possible.”

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#Angling - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has issued an appeal to bass anglers preparing for the season ahead to get involved in collecting information on bass in Irish waters for the National Bass Programme (NBP).

The programme was established by IFI to collect data on bass to provide scientific advice to support management and conservation of Ireland’s bass resource.

Bass anglers, as citizen scientists, have been collecting information for the NBP since 2013, thereby supporting bass stock assessment and increased understanding of the biology and ecology of bass in Irish waters.

To date, over 750 bass have been tagged and 3,000 adult bass scale samples have been collected. Scales are used to determine the age and growth rate of bass, while tagging provides information on migrations and habitat use.

The likelihood of additional recaptures is increasing with greater numbers of tagged fish at sea. Tagging results so far have shown that bass were recaptured generally within a few kilometres of their original capture site but some have travelled up to 38km. Time at liberty has ranged from three to 298 days.

By checking all bass for tags and reporting recaptures, anglers will help to discover additional information regarding movements of Irish bass.

IFI head of research and development Dr Cathal Gallagher said: “Ireland has always been a pioneer in terms of bass conservation and is showing progressive thinking in bass management by using the expert knowledge of anglers to collect information that would otherwise not be obtainable. We call on anybody interested in promoting bass conservation to contact IFI for information on how to get involved. All support is much appreciated.

“If you catch a bass with a yellow tag, or a fouled tag, please don’t remove it from the fish. Simply clean the tag and note the tag code (eg B-00001). If possible take the length and weight of the fish, and five scales from behind the pectoral fin, before you release the fish alive.

"Please send us the details, along with the date and location and your name and phone number by email or call IFI on 01-8842600. Information on the original bass tagging location and date will be provided to everybody who reports details to the IFI.”

IFI chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne added: “Bass is an extremely important and valuable marine sport angling species in Ireland. It is a particularly valuable national resource, contributing €71 million to the Irish economy annually and supporting over 1,200 jobs nationally.

"Bass is an angling-only species so it is important that anglers, as guardians and custodians of this iconic sportfish, contribute information to support conservation orientated management.

"Some anglers are using voluntary logbooks to provide information on catches, angling effort, fish sizes and methods used. Scale sampling packs and logbooks are available from IFI and feedback on scales received will be provided to individual anglers outlining fish age, the year it was spawned and its growth rate.”

IFI has a dedicated email address at [email protected] to enable members of the public to report details on caught bass or to request information on how to support the NBP.

For more information, visit www.fisheriesireland.ie or call IFI at 01 884 2600 during office hours.

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The Agriculture and Fisheries Council, one of the configurations of the Council of the European Union, recently agreed the proposed Council Regulation 559 (with some amendments). The adopted final version will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union in the coming days. The regulation sets out fishing opportunities and fish quotas for EU fishing fleets, and also sets out new rules for recreational bass fishing throughout northern Europe, including Ireland. Implementation of this regulation will require new legislation in Ireland.

In the interim period, pending legislation, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is requesting anglers to recognise the need for conservation and to fish according to the regulations that are expected to be introduced shortly i.e. to fish on a catch-and-release basis up to and including June 30th, 2016.

A one fish bag limit will apply from July 1 to December 31. It is envisaged that the introduction of new legislation for Ireland will incorporate elements of the National Bass Policy and will be introduced in advance of the close season for bass angling.

The new EU regulation on bass fishing was introduced as an emergency measure to address declining bass stocks, as scientific advice indicates that stocks in northern Europe are in a perilous state.

Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of IFI stated “Bass is a valuable and important sport angling species which has been managed as an angling species since 1990. It is a valuable resource, contributing €71 million to the Irish economy annually and supporting over 1,200 jobs. The new measures here and restrictions on commercial fishing outside Irish waters will help improve bass stocks and ensure they continue to provide quality angling for local and tourist anglers alike into the future, sustaining and growing the important economic and social benefits.”

While there is no commercial fishing for bass in Ireland, commercial fishing elsewhere has been severely curtailed, particularly on spawning stocks, which should help Irish stocks. New measures for recreational angling are also being imposed on an international level.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has a confidential hotline number to enable members of the general public to report incidents - 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24. This phone line is designed to encourage the reporting of incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and invasive species.

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#Angling - Proposals from Brussels for a total ban on bass angling in Ireland for the first six months of 2016 have raised the ire of anglers and related businesses.

As Derek Evans writes in today's Irish Times, the "stringent" measures, if adopted, would include a ban on recreational angling alongside prohibitions on commercial fishing for bass - with a monthly one-tonne catch limit for boats and a single-bag limit for anglers in the latter half of the year.

Evans quotes from angling guide John Quinlan, who says he will be lobbying the EU Fisheries Commission "to allow us to at least be able to fish catch and release. Otherwise, it will effectively close down businesses like mine."

Management of bass stocks is the focus of a new satellite tagging scheme being undertaken by Inland Fisheries Ireland, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

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Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has undertaken an innovative tagging study to investigate the spawning migrations of bass. A large number of adult bass in Cork Harbour were tagged, and the study took place in partnership with Finn Okland from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Wildlife Computers, a leading electronic tagging company, and local angling experts.

Little is known about the migration patterns or spawning behaviour of Irish bass populations and this study was designed to contribute to addressing this significant knowledge gap and provide improved information to manage this iconic sport fish species.

Miniaturised satellite tags, developed by Wildlife Computers, were attached to angler-caught bass which were returned to the water within minutes after tagging. The lightweight tags are scheduled to release from the fish in late spring 2016, when they will transmit data about the fish location and other scientific information to the ARGOS satellite. ARGOS is a satellite-based system which collects, processes and disseminates environmental data from fixed and mobile platforms worldwide.

IFI’s CEO, Dr Ciaran Byrne, commented: “Bass is one of the most exciting and valuable recreational angling species occurring in Irish waters. This project was particularly timely given the major international focus on the distribution of bass and concerns about its status. Unravelling more about bass migrations through this partnership presents an excellent opportunity to gain new insights which are essential when considered in the context of IFI’s national role in protecting and conserving this important but vulnerable species.”

NINA’s Finn Okland, an international fish telemetry expert who is advising the project, was on-site for the sampling and tagging which was recently carried out over four days in Cork Harbour. This was a repeat of a similar tagging effort carried out in 2014 and information gleaned from the 2014 results was used to enhance the tags and improve the study this year.

Elaborating on the study Finn Okland said: “This is a very exciting project which is focused on investigating the migrations of bass using the latest technology and I look forward, with great anticipation, to the results in 2016.”

This tagging study is one element of IFI’s long-term National Bass Conservation Programme which aims to determine the status of juvenile, pre-adult and adult bass around the coast. Working closely with anglers is a key element of the programme given that bass is the only marine fish species that is managed exclusively for angling. The expertise of local anglers, who caught the fish which were tagged, was essential for the success of the project.

IFI’s Head of Research, Dr Cathal Gallagher, said: “Using this satellite technology was a highlight for Inland Fisheries Ireland’s National Bass Programme in 2015 and marks ongoing developments in the use of advanced telemetry in Ireland. It emphasises the importance of ‘Citizen Science’ in supporting bass research and further enhances the ongoing collaborative research with NINA and several other international partners on a range of species.”

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#Angling - National policies for the management of trout, pike and bass, were launched today (Friday 22 August) by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

“These policies are the first national species policies to be issued from IFI and in this regard represent a new era for fisheries management in Ireland," said Brendan O'Mahony, chair of the State agency responsible for the protection, conservation, management and promotion of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources.

"The policies will provide for the better conservation and management of bass, pike and trout in Ireland and will help ensure sustainability of stocks into the future," he added.

"In addition, they will allow for improved angling economic impacts and help to sustain and improve the many jobs that are supported by recreational angling in Ireland.”

The three policy documents have been formulated, through a rigorous consultation process, by groups comprising fisheries scientists, angling federations and industry representatives.

The recommendations will now be brought forward and put into practice by IFI. Where required, IFI will seek legislative changes to underpin and support the policies, which will be reviewed after a period of three years.

The main recommendations put forward include:

Bass: a reduction in the daily angling bag limit from two to one fish in any 24 hour period; an increase in the minimum landing size; and a review of the closed season.

Pike: in designated, managed wild brown trout fisheries, the current bye-law is recommended to be amended to prohibit the killing of any pike greater than or equal to 85 cm in length; all larger rod-caught pike should be returned to the water alive; in all other waters of the State an angler will be permitted to take and kill one pike of less than or equal to 50 cm in length (as per the existing bye-law); additionally, the policy calls for further research into pike movement and transfer programmes.

Trout: a national minimum size limit; national bag limits; designation of a number of lakes and rivers sections as wild brown trout fisheries; in addition to other measures.

IFI chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne added: “I would like to thank all who assisted with the formulation of these policies, and I would also like to acknowledge the passion and understanding that all of the groups have for their species of interest: the environment; habitat; and pressures that they face.

"The challenge now is to implement these policies through the work of IFI, angling practices, and where necessary, with legislative support. I look forward to progressing these policies with the same collaborative approach as used in their formulation.”

For more information and to access the policy documents, visit www.fisheriesireland.ie.

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