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Illegal Fishing Nets Seized in 2020 ‘Could Line Dublin Airport Runway Five Times’ Says Inland Fisheries Ireland

29th July 2021
IFI staff member John O’Connor in Co Kerry seizing an illegal fishing net from the River Feale in 2020
IFI staff member John O’Connor in Co Kerry seizing an illegal fishing net from the River Feale in 2020 Credit: IFI

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has revealed that over 13km of illegal nets were seized by its protection officers and inspectors around the country last year.

Some 250 illegal fishing nets, measuring 13,158 metres in total, were among the 1,287 items seized by the State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats on its patrols and inspections in 2020.

Other items seized by IFI included spear guns, hand lines, traps, illegally caught fish and stroke hauls which are large-weighted hooks used to impale a fish.

Unless licensed, it is illegal to use a net for catching fish in freshwater due to the ecological damage they cause to fish populations and habitats, such as those of wild Atlantic salmon, sea trout and sea bass.

Due to the severity of the offence and the environmental impact caused by illegal fishing, IFI has a policy of bringing cases involving illegal nets directly to court. Those convicted can face fines and even prison sentences.

Dr Greg Forde, head of operations at IFI, explains: “In the course of our inspections and patrols last year, Inland Fisheries Ireland seized over 1,200 items, including 13km of illegal fishing nets from poachers. To put that figure into perspective, that’s enough illegal netting to line the runway at Dublin Airport five times over.”

He added: “Illegal fishing has a detrimental effect on our fish population, doing untold damage to this precious resource and in particular to wild Atlantic salmon stocks at this time of year. Thanks to the public’s help in reporting incidences of illegal fishing, we’re able to better protect and conserve fisheries for future generations and prevent loss of fish to poaching.”

An illegal fishing net seized by IFI at Inisdooey Island in Co Donegal in 2020 | Credit: IFIAn illegal fishing net seized by IFI at Inisdooey Island in Co Donegal in 2020 | Credit: IFI

A recent court case involving the use of an illegal net for fishing came before Judge David Waters at Listowel District Court on 1 July this year.

Tom Allen, with an address of Lixnaw, Co Kerry, was convicted under Section 96 of the Fisheries Acts 1959 – 2017 on a charge of possession of a net along the River Brick in 2020. Allen was fined €700 and was also ordered to pay €947 in court costs.

Assistant Inspector at IFI, Darren Halpin gave evidence in court outlining how he was responding to a report from a member of the public, which led to the seizure of the illegal net.

In another court case this year involving illegal fishing nets, Gareth Fennel of Kilrush, Co Clare was convicted on 20 July under Sections 96 and 97 of the Fisheries Consolidation Act 1959.

Appearing before Kilrush District Court in Ennis Courthouse, Fennel was fined €500 and ordered to pay €530 in costs for possession and use of an illegal net for the purposes of taking salmon. Ray Byrne, a fisheries officer with IFI, gave evidence in court.

Commenting on the recent convictions, David McInerney, director of the Shannon River Basin District at IFI, said: “Salmon poaching is a highly damaging environmental crime which has devastating effects on salmon stocks. The continued commitment of the fisheries officers to protecting salmon and their habitat must be commended.”

To report suspicions of illegal fishing, or sightings of illegal nets, members of the public are encouraged to call IFI’s confidential hotline number on 1890 34 74 24 which is open 24 hours a day.

Published in Angling
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