COVERT mobile cameras are being rolled out along the State's rivers and lakes in a bid to clamp down on poaching.
The state-of-the-art CCTV equipment is being introduced for the first time following a successful pilot scheme launched in north Dublin last month, the Irish Independent has learned.
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which is operating the scheme, said the technology will help its officers respond more effectively to incidents of poaching.
"Primarily we want these cameras to be covert and we don't want people taking too much notice of them, so they can do their job without being broken," a spokeswoman said.
"It's really about working smarter, getting the best use of our resources because they are reducing all the time.
"We get lots of reports and we try to investigate all of them, but it's not always possible to get the right evidence or somebody might mistake what they're looking at. So this will be to verify what they're looking at."
Ireland has over 70,000km of rivers and streams and 144,000 hectares of lakes, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of IFI.
The plan is to introduce up to four units initially. The CCTV will be state-of-the-art and small to evade detection; mobile to be moved from various locations; equipped with motion detection, and battery powered.
But the IFI declined to give any further details of how they will be moved around for fear they will be spotted and vandalised by poachers.
The equipment will also be capable of having the recorded images downloaded in real-time so that IFI enforcement officers will be able to view them on smartphones or laptops and respond immediately if poaching is detected.
IFI set up a 24-hour hotline in 2010, and around 402 calls were received between January of last year and the end of September. The semi-state body, which was established in July 2010 after the amalgamation of the Central Fisheries Board and the seven Regional Fisheries Boards, initiated almost 170 prosecutions for poaching in its first six months.
In one case in Monaghan, a defendant was given a six-month jail sentence for illegal coarse fishing on Lough Ramor; while fines of €2,200 were given to three individuals for illegal coarse fishing in another case.
Total prosecution figures for 2011 are not yet available.
The hotline number is 1850 34 74 24.