In its annual report for 2020, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, has revealed that over 13 kilometres of illegal nets were seized by its protection officers and inspectors around the country last year. To put that figure into perspective, that’s enough illegal netting to line the runway at Dublin Airport five times over.
250 illegal fishing nets, measuring 13,158 metres in total, were among the 1,287 items seized by the agency on its patrols and inspections in 2020. Other items seized included spear guns, 238 rods/hand lines, traps, 761 illegally caught fish, and stroke hauls which are large-weighted hooks used to impale a fish.
Unless licenced, 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 Wild Atlantic Salmon, Sea Trout and Sea Bass. Due to the severity of the offence and the environmental impact caused by illegal fishing, Inland Fisheries Ireland has a policy of bringing cases involving illegal nets directly to court. Those convicted can face fines and even prison sentences.
A recent court case involving the use of an illegal net for fishing came before Judge David Waters at Listowel District Court on July 1st 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. Mr Allen was fined €700 and was also ordered to pay €947 in court costs.
Assistant Inspector at Inland Fisheries Ireland, Darren Halpin, gave evidence in court, outlining how he was responding to a report from a member of the public.
In another court case involving the seizure of an illegal net, Donal Healy of Castletownbere was convicted in October 2020 on two counts of illegal fishing and on one count of obstructing Inland Fisheries Ireland officers. Mr Healy was fined €2,000 for illegal fishing, a further €2,000 for obstructing Fisheries Officers and ordered to pay €500 in costs.
To report suspicions of illegal fishing, or sightings of illegal nets, members of the public are encouraged to call Inland Fisheries Ireland’s confidential hotline number on 1890 34 74 24, which is open 24 hours a day.