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Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir met with members of the Northern Ireland Fishing Harbour Authority (NIFHA) and local fishers during a visit to Portavogie Harbour in Co Down this week.

The visit on Wednesday (21 February) was the latest in a series of face-to-face engagements with stakeholders across all parts of DAERA’s extensive remit.

After the visit, Minister Muir said: “The fisheries sector is an integral part of the DAERA family, playing an essential role in the economy of Northern Ireland, putting food on our tables and it is an unquestionable part of the fabric of our rural communities.

“Our local harbours in Co Down are important economic hubs along our coastline and I was delighted to visit Portavogie to hear from the people on the ground, or in this case on the water, about the issues that matter to them the most.

“To meet and adapt to challenges and exploit the increasing opportunities from the blue economy, there is a need for investment in Northern Ireland’s harbour infrastructure. I am committed to ensuring these harbours modernise and contribute to the sustainability and decarbonisation of the fishing sector and local areas.”

During his visit, the minister congratulated NIFHA on securing an offer from the UK Seafood Fund of 75% of the £3.6 million cost of an upgrade of the current slipway facilities at Portavogie.

Minister Muir said: “I am happy that my department has already provided financial assistance towards the development costs associated with the UK Seafood Fund application and we are committed to providing the 25% match funding required to complete the investment by 31 March 2025.

“Government needs to provide support with clear policies and other measures. I will shortly be considering a five-year strategic plan which will offer support along the lines available under previous EU Programmes.

“The plan will seek to provide incentives to enable the industry sectors to become more economically resilient. It will also aim to provide green growth funding to help stakeholders make a significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s net-zero targets as well as continuing to support the recent good work on stock sustainability and in reducing the environmental impact of fishing.

“In addition to the introduction of new on-board technologies and the investment in more modern fishing vessels, there will have to be investment in shore side infrastructure to support decarbonisation. I hope to be able to open a new scheme to applications in summer 2024 once the legislative and budgetary approvals are in place.

“I look forward to engaging with the Northern Ireland fishing industry to explore options for fleet modernisation, sustainability and achieving net zero targets.”

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Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEARA) has published an FAQ regarding the impact of zebra mussels on the public angling estate.

Fears have been expressed that tens of thousands of fish could be culled after the invasive mussel was discovered at Movanagher Fish Farm, which supplies brown and rainbow trout to DAERA, as the Belfast Telegraph reported last month.

Since the discovery this past June, DAERA says it “has taken a precautionary approach and suspended movements of live fish from Movanagher fish farm for stocking to other fisheries to ensure compliance” with the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

“The Department is currently considering Agri Foods and Biosciences Institute’s scientific advice to inform the way forward,” it adds.

DAERA also moved to assuage concerns over the perceived delay in its taking action, saying: “There is no scheduled stocking over the summer due to the warmer weather conditions. In addition, a temporary suspension of stocking into the PAE was put in place on 19 July.

“DAERA used the time during the summer to consider additional information to fully assess the zebra mussel issue and its impact on the fish farm and the department’s stocking programme.”

Meanwhile, Movanagher Fish Farm remains open despite the suspension of the PAE stocking programme, and DAERA says it is “currently considering options in relation to it and the stocking of fish into the PAE waters”.

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A Co Antrim angler was found guilty of fishing offences and fined a total of £541 at Laganside Magistrates Court on Tuesday 23 May.

Aurel Ciurar (23) of Ava Park, Belfast was convicted, in his absence, of five breaches of legislation as prescribed under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 and Public Angling Estate (PAE) Byelaws 2005.

The breaches were unlicensed fishing; fishing on DAERA’s waters without a permit; failing to provide his name and address; obstructing and impeding an authorised person, and using un-permitted fishing methods.

On 29 April 2022, fisheries protection officers with Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) were on routine patrol of the Public Angling Estate (PAE) at North Woodburn Reservoir in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim when they observed Ciurar along with another unidentified male fishing with a number of fishing rods.

Both men refused to provide officers with their details, to enable checks to take place to ensure they had the correct fishing license and permissions to fish legally at the location. Their fishing equipment was seized as a result of failing to provide their names and addresses.

They were also found to be using sweetcorn as bait, which is not permitted.

Officers were able to identify Ciurar by using the registration details of the vehicle the men used to leave the location. The identity of the second man has never been confirmed.

The total fine of £541 included:

  • £50 for the use of a vegetable matter (sweetcorn) as bait;
  • £75 for possession of an unlicensed fishing engine;
  • £75 for fishing on the department’s waters without a permit;
  • £150 for obstructing and impeding an authorised officer; and
  • £150 for failing to provide name and address along with court costs of £26 and an offender levy of £15.

DAERA Inland Fisheries enforcement is committed to pursue those who fish illegally. If you are aware or suspect illegal fishing, you should contact DAERA Inland Fisheries on 0300 200 7860 or outside office hours contact 0800 807 060.

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An angler has been convicted at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court for several fishing offences and fined a total of £465, which included a £15 offender levy.

Kevin McCann (55) of Lagmore View Gardens, Dunmurray, Belfast was found guilty at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court to three breaches of legislation and fisheries regulations prescribed under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966, namely unlicensed fishing, fishing on Public Angling Estate (PAE) waters without a permit and obstructing and impeding an authorised person while carrying out their duties.

The court heard that on 25 August 2021, DAERA fisheries protection officers were on routine patrol of PAE waters at Hillsborough Lake when they observed McCann angling.

When asked to reel in his rod so a check of the bait could be made, McCann reeled in two rods; a further rod licence and permit check confirmed that McCann had a game licence and permit for one of the rods and not the other.

When this was explained to McCann, he advised the second rod belonged to his grandson who had gone for a walk. The fisheries protection officers then advised they would await his return. McCann obstructed and impeded DAERA staff from carrying out their duties, the court heard.

The total fine of £465 consisted of fines of £150 for each offence along with an offender levy of £15.

DAERA says it is committed to pursue those who fish illegally in Northern Ireland. If you are aware or suspect illegal fishing, DAERA Inland Fisheries can be contacted at (+44) 0300 200 7860 or outside office hours (+44) 0800 807 060.

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The crash site of a rare Royal Navy helicopter lost in 1958 has been discovered as part of a scientific survey of the Northern Ireland coastline.

Remnants of the aircraft were initially spotted in aerial photos of Lough Foyle as part of the Northern Ireland 3D Coastal Survey, commissioned by NI’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

But it was a further physical inspection of the site that revealed the wreck of the Dragonfly, an early example of a military helicopter, lying on its starboard side on the gravelly bank.

Though heavily corroded, the frame of the helicopter and its three rotor blades were mostly intact, with remnants of the ‘Royal Navy’ stencilling still discernible down the tail boom.

Further research involving officials from the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Plymouth, the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton and the Ulster Aviation Society identified the aircraft as a 1955 Westland Dragonfly naval air-sea search and rescue helicopter, which was based at the Royal Naval Air Station Eglinton, now the City of Derry Airport. The helicopter had come down on 25 November 1958, during a recovery exercise.

The discovery of the Dragonfly was an unexpected find during the Topographic LiDAR & Orthophotography survey, which was completed in early 2022.

This survey has provided high-resolution aerial photographs, near-infrared imagery and 3D laser scans of the ground surface to provide detailed information on what the NI coastline looks like, as well as identify human-made structure and landscape features at risk from coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Marine archaeologists are using this data to identify and assess archaeological and historical sites that lie around Northern Ireland’s coastline. These can include historic wrecks, medieval fish-traps, monastic settlements, castles and fortifications, quays, slipways, and Industrial-era seaweed cultivation sites.

While many of the sites examined are recorded on the Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland (HERoNI), the research has so far identified over 150 new heritage sites, with 100 of these below the high-tide mark.

The exact position of the helicopter wreck is not being released as the crash site is located on dangerous soft sediment and a significant number of potentially live Second World War and post-war ordnance surround the site.

Further information on the find will be available on a new website, The Northern Ireland Coastal Observatory, which DAERA says will be launched in the near future.

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Two carp anglers convicted at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court for separate fishing offences have been fined a total of £430.

Samuel Seenan (42) of Altnagarron Mews, Belfast pleaded guilty to three breaches of legislation prescribed under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 — namely unlicensed fishing, failing to provide his name and address and obstructing and impeding an authorised person.

Separately, Wayne Hull (51) of Ashmount Gardens in Lisburn pleaded guilty to two breaches of legislation prescribed under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966, namely unlicensed fishing and failing to provide his name and address.

On 20 March 2022, DAERA fisheries protection officers were on routine patrol of Mill Lodge carp fishery in Dromore, Co Down. This fishery is owned by the Northern Ireland Carp Angling Society (NICAS).

During their patrol, they observed Seenan setting up fishing rods. Seenan was then approached by a DAERA fisheries protection officer and asked that he provide his details so a check of the online system could take place to confirm there was a license in place for each of his fishing rods.

Seenan was aggressive and confrontational during these requests and continually refused to comply, the court heard.

After numerous requests were ignored, the PSNI was called to assist. With the PSNI assistance, Seenan then provided his details.

Due to his constant refusal to provide details initially, and that there was no fishing licence in place during the initial request to provide his details, all fishing equipment belonging to Seenan was seized.

The total fine of £315 consisted of fines ranging from £50 to £200 for each offence along with an offender levy of £15.

In a separate incident, when Hull was approached and asked for his details, he explained that he was an officer of the club and that all fishing licenses had been checked previously for all anglers present.

Hull then provided a false name, along with two different dates of birth, the court heard. When asked again to provide his correct details, a follow-up check confirmed that Hull had no current fishing license and was fishing illegally.

Hull’s total fine of £115 consisted of two fines of £50 for each offence along with an offender levy of £15.

DAERA says it is committed to pursue those who fish illegally. If you are aware or suspect illegal fishing, DAERA Inland Fisheries can be contacted at (+44) 0300 200 7860 or outside office hours (+44) 0800 807 060.

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Northern Ireland’s Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has officially launched the 2020 angling season for more than 20,000 anglers in the region.

Under the guidance of professional angler Joe Stitt at Shaws Bridge in Belfast, Minister Poots tried his hand at fly fishing and highlighted the positive effects of angling on mental health and well-being.

He said: “Fishing is one of the top 10 sports in Northern Ireland, enjoyed by more than 20,000 people all year round. One of the most important social impacts identified is the benefit to personal health.

“There is clear evidence that a wide range of physical and mental health benefits can be accrued from participation in this sport. Angling appeals to individuals who are not necessarily attracted to more formal sport and can offer opportunities for life long participation.

“With high levels of participation and involvement across a range of age and income groups, angling can contribute towards building social cohesion and building united communities. It can bring people of different ages and income groups together and facilitates interaction and relationships.

“Angling is also regarded as a popular and relatively accessible sport among people with disabilities. The sport is unique in offering opportunities for competition alongside able bodied participants.”

The minister also praised the work of his staff in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in supporting local anglers throughout the season.

“My departmental staff work extremely hard throughout the year, in all weather conditions, to work with and support local anglers. In 2019 they stocked 30 Public Angling Estate waterways with 122,000 fish, consisting of 42,250 rainbow trout and 79,750 brown trout. In advance of the 2020 angling season my staff have stocked 15,000 fish.

“My department is working on a number of new initiatives to increase angling participation by underrepresented groups such as disabled, females, young people and minority groups

“By keeping the price of licences and permits down, I am committed to providing accessible and affordable angling, particularly in areas of social need and I wish all anglers tight lines for 2020 and enjoy the season.”

Licence and permit fees have been frozen for 2020. This year an annual angling licence costs just £17. There is a reduced rate for senior citizens at £5 and for under 18s at £2. Permits cost £77 for an annual general season game permit with other local permits on offer and reduced rates for senior citizens and under 18s.

DAERA inland fisheries staff work year-round to monitor, nurture and conserve fish stocks and to manage the Public Angling Estate. They stock many lakes with fish and ensure that stocks are not damaged by illegal activities.

These ongoing efforts, in collaboration with a range of other agencies and stakeholders, help to safeguard angling for both local and visitor anglers, the department says.

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The Rankin Dinghy of Cobh, Cork Harbour 

A Rankin is a traditional wooden dinghy which was built in Cobh, of which it’s believed there were 80 and of which The Rankin Dinghy Group has traced nearly half. 

The name of the Rankin dinghies is revered in Cork Harbour and particularly in the harbourside town of Cobh.

And the name of one of those boats is linked to the gunboat which fought against the Irish Volunteers during the 1916 Easter Rising and later for the emergent Irish Free State Government against anti-Treaty Forces during the Irish Civil War.

It also links the renowned boat-building Rankin family in Cobh, one of whose members crewed on the gunboat.

Maurice Kidney and Conor English are driving the restoration of the Rankin dinghies in Cork Harbour. They have discovered that Rankins were bought and sailed in several parts of the country.