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Over 36,000 Patrols by Fisheries Officers in 2021 Boosted by New Mobile Support Unit and Delta Seagoing Fleet, IFI Says

5th July 2022
Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Jose Perez and Andrew Crosbie on foot patrol
Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Jose Perez and Andrew Crosbie on foot patrol Credit: IFI

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says it carried out 3,000 more patrols in 2021, boosted by its new Mobile Support Unit and Delta seagoing fleet.

Out of a total of 36,379 patrols, the State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats initiated 103 prosecutions for fisheries-related offences last year and seized 1,261 illegal fishing items, including nearly 14km of illegal nets.

Officers also issued 293 fixed charge penalty notices and gave 715 cautions under fisheries legislation.

IFI’s new Mobile Support Unit (MSU) started patrols in June last year and is made up of specially selected crews who travel across the country in response to incidents. Its role is to support protection and enforcement along rivers, lakes and coastlines where the threat of illegal fishing is deemed high, based on local intelligence and reports from the public.

In its first six months the MSU undertook 127 patrols, seizing over 2km of illegal nets, IFI says.

Meanwhile, the new Delta seagoing fleet undertook 232 patrols along Ireland’s coastlines last year and is credited with an increase in illegal nets being seized at sea — 60 sea nets seized in 2021, compared with 45 sea nets seized in 2020.

To enable the Delta fleet to be deployed for more night-time patrols, nearly 40 fisheries officers have been trained as coxswains.

In line with other years, IFI says the peak months for seizure of illegal nets in 2021 were June, July and August. Crucially, this coincides with peak salmon runs as they enter rivers and start to move upstream during the summer months.

Type of patrols for Inland Fisheries Ireland in 2021Types and number of patrols carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland in 2021

Wild Atlantic salmon continues to be the most ‘poached’ fish in the country and IFI says it is concerned at the persistently high level of illegal fishing activity. 

“We’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and Ireland’s freshwater fish are in real danger from illegal fishing activity,” IFI chief executive Francis O’Donnell said. “To combat this, Inland Fisheries Ireland has increased the number of enforcement patrols in the last year, boosted by our new Mobile Support Unit and Delta seagoing fleet.

“Our protection programme protects stocks of vulnerable fish species, such as wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout, as well as promoting biodiversity and sustainable angling for the benefit of future generations.”

Officers from IFI undertook 36,379 patrols of different types last year, an increase of 10% over the previous year. The agency credits higher patrol figures with the introduction of its specialist Mobile Response Unit, the increased use of its Delta seagoing fleet as well as the relaxation of travel restrictions following the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The most common methods for patrolling river banks, rivers, lakes and coastlines in 2021 were:

  • Vehicle and foot patrols (33,409 patrols)
  • Bicycle patrols (1,564 patrols)
  • Boat patrols (797 patrols)
  • Drone patrols (406 patrols)
  • Kayak patrols (161 patrols)
  • Personal watercraft patrols (33 patrols)
  • Quad patrols (5 patrols)
  • Irish Air Corps patrols (4 patrols)

Meanwhile, members of the public are being encouraged to continue reporting any suspicions of illegal fishing activity directly to IFI by telephoning its new 24-hour confidential hotline number on 0818 34 74 24.

Published in Angling Team

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