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Navy gunboat sails into British waters to arrest illegal trawler

A HEAVILY armed Irish navy patrol ship entered British waters to arrest a trawler fishing illegally in an unusual operation.

The LE Ciara, which carries a 76mm main gun, two 20mm cannons and two 12.7mm heavy machine guns, used new European regulations to enter UK waters to make the arrest.

The ship is one of two high speed ex-Royal Navy ships once used in Hong Kong which now patrol Irish coastal waters.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) identified possible licence and registration infringements of the Irish registered fishing vessel and the Naval Service later detained the trawler.

SFPA officers saw the trawler leaving port and starting to fish in UK waters to the south east of Rosslare, the SFPA said.

Permission was sought -- and granted -- by UK authorities in line with the European Fisheries control regulations for the Ciara to enter UK waters and inspect the fishing boat.

After inspection of the trawler's papers, it was detained and escorted to Rosslare by the Navy ship.

SFPA officers investigated the catch and fishing gear aboard the vessel and legal proceedings involving the gardai were later initiated against the master of the fishing boat.

"The illegal landing of fish only serves to depress the price the legitimate fisherman should be achieving for fish," Peter Whelan, chairman of the SFPA said. "It also distorts the markets and only serves to benefit those involved in illegal fishing activity."

Licensing and authorisation of fishing vessels is a basic prerequisite of EU and Irish law, he said.

"The role of the SFPA supports profitable, sustainable, managed fisheries, at a time when the fishing industry faces many challenges," Mr Whelan said.

"Effective monitoring and control systems safe guards the good reputation of Irish food producers in the international marketplace and protects the Irish taxpayer from the threat of large fines being imposed when non compliances with the Common Fisheries Policy are encountered," he added.