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Oar-Wielding Waterford Man Convicted For Illegal Bass Fishing

9th May 2014
Oar-Wielding Waterford Man Convicted For Illegal Bass Fishing

#Angling - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) secured a conviction for illegal fishing in Waterford earlier this month over an incident last summer that quickly escalated from a fisheries investigation to a search and rescue operation.

Brendan Keane was prosecuted for illegal netting of bass in Tramore Bay on 25 August 2013 at a sitting of the District Court last Wednesday 2 May.

Keane, of Grantstown in Co Waterford, pleaded guilty to possession of a net, use of a boat while illegal fishing, and obstructing and impeding IFI officers, all contrary to the 1959 Fisheries Consolidation Act, and possession of nine bass contrary to a 2007 bye-law.

IFI inspector Tony O'Dwyer outlined in detail to Judge Kevin Staunton the complex series of events which unfolded when he and a colleague, with co-operation from the Garda, were investigating illegal netting of fish near Saleens, Co Waterford around 5am on the day in question.

O'Dwyer and fishery officer Isaac Ferns discovered Keane and an accomplice illegally fishing with a net and a small boat under cover of darkness in an area renowned by anglers for its stocks of salmon, sea trout and in particular wild bass, the sale of which is banned in Ireland.

When confronted, Keane began aggressively swinging an oar and roaring obscenities at the two IFI officers, and the court heard he was searching for his gun in the boat when the officers approached as he came ashore.

Keane and his accomplice retreated back to the open sea in their tiny unseaworthy boat, putting them in extreme danger. The tiny craft was not capable of dealing with the sea conditions and Keane had no buoyancy aid or lifejacket.

Gardaí involved in the incident said they were left with no choice but to alert the RNLI and Irish Coast Guard when what began as a fisheries investigation turned into a multi-agency marine search operation, including the deployment of a rescue helicopter when Keane's boat as round drifting without passengers.

Keane and his accomplice were subsequently found safely ashore but both refused to admit to gardaí that they had been the occupants of the drifting vessel. 

IFI staff seized the small craft and a 120-metre drift net along with nine dead bass during the investigation.

Judge Kevin Staunton convicted Keane, imposing a four-month suspended sentence, with fines totalling €3,000, and awarding expenses of €751.02 to IFI. Keane’s boat and net were also forfeited.

Meanwhile in Galway, Judge Mary Fahy convicted two men of illegal fishing on the Clare River last summer at a sitting of Galway District Court on Tuesday 6 May.

James Fahy, of Ballindooley in Co Galway, was convicted of three offences on two dates in June and August 2013, while Michael McGath, of Castlegar in Co Galway, was convicted of one offence in August 2013.

Judge Fahy heard evidence from fisheries inspector Pat Gorman that on 18 June last James Fahy was observed using a net on the Clare River.

When approached, Fahy attempted to reverse his vehicle away down a side road, but fishery officers intervened. During the incident fishery officer Paul Reynolds was assaulted. Fahy was apprehended, and a search of the vehicle revealed a net, six large salmon and two large trout.

Fahy pleaded guilty to illegal possession of the fish, and to assault and obstruction. He pleaded guilty to a further charge of illegal possession of a net at the same location on 11 August, when he was again observed by fishery officers fishing and then concealing a net.

Judge Fahy convicted James Fahy and fined him €1,750 with €600 costs, and ordered him to pay €500 compensation to Reynolds. The judge also commented in court that illegal fishing hits already depleted fish stocks, and affects tourism.

She considered a driving disqualification in light of the use of the vehicle in the course of the offence, but as this was a first offence a driving ban was not imposed.

At the same court sitting, Michael McGath was convicted of illegal possession of a net on 11 August, and fined €100 with €600 costs.

Published in Angling
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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