Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Inshore Fisheries

10:30 am

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising what is a really important issue. I am responding on behalf of the Minster, who is unable to be here.

As the Senator will be aware, Inland Fisheries Ireland, IFI, is the State body with responsibility for the protection, management, conservation, promotion, marketing and development of the inland fisheries resource. Officials in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications have liaised with IFl on the matters the Senator has raised relating to the River Suir. I am happy to update him accordingly.

Currently, four permanent IFI staff are operating in the west Waterford district, protecting the River Suir catchment, the Nore catchment, the Waterford coastline, including the Tay, Colligan and Mahon rivers, and the Waterford Estuary. With specific reference to the River Suir catchment, I can advise the Senator that in excess of 40 tributaries must be policed along with the main channel as far as the estuary in Cheekpoint, County Waterford. A broad range of vehicles and watercraft are used for patrolling the River Suir catchment, including all-terrain vehicles, kayaks, bicycles and boats. Patrol boats are deployed on the Suir Estuary more than 30 times per annum, and in excess of 20 sea patrols are carried out on the Waterford coast and Waterford Estuary per annum. In carrying out protection work in the region, IFl protection teams review the previous week's activities in catchments, take account of meteorological and tidal data, and examine fishery risks identified in the annual protection plan as well as pressures in the area, such as water levels, fish movements, intelligence or reports received, known hotspots and relevant hotline reports.

Vehicle, bike, and mobile patrols, including at night and on weekends, are carried out weekly. Patrols may be overt – they include high-visibility, daytime patrols using logoed apparel and vehicles to engage stakeholders or deter illegal activity – or covert, utilising either unlogoed or plain-clothes and unmarked vehicles. IFl conducts these patrols using various modern technologies, including drones, binocular long-range spotting scopes, covert cameras, night sights and thermal imagers. You would expect these more in the Defence Forces than the IFI. Obviously, it indicates the scale of the work the team is doing in the area. In addition to its receiving the 24-hour hotline reports, the local IFI office receives calls weekly, and the officers receive calls and messages from concerned members of the public with regard to fishing activity. All reports are examined and responded to in a timely manner.

In the time available, IFl was not in a position to provide me with the requested information on the number of calls but I will ask it to follow up with the Senator in providing it. IFl maintains a presence every week on the 20 km Suir Blueway between Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel, along with other hotspot areas in the catchment, through bike, foot and vehicle mobile patrols.

Since 2016, the salmon and sea trout rehabilitation, conservation and protection fund, formerly the salmon conservation fund, has awarded more than €4.4 million to 113 projects in Ireland. The projects are distributed among the IFI river basin districts. I will share relevant tabular information with a breakdown of the expenditure across regions with the Senator separately in written form. Moreover, IFl has also provided me with a breakdown of the number of prosecutions, fixed-charge penalty notices and seizures that were made in relation to the River Suir over the ten-year year period 2014 to 2023. Again, I will share this information with the Senator in written form for ease of reference. In summary, over the period, 143 nets, one cage, four boats and 22 rods were seized on the Suir catchment. Forty-three fixed-charge penalty notices were issued and seven prosecutions were taken.

It is important to emphasise that the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and IFI take most seriously the matter of illegal fishing in Ireland's inland fisheries, including the River Suir. Dedicated efforts and resources continue to be concentrated on combating such illegal fishing. Patrol boats, covert cameras, drone patrols and other forms of surveillance continue to be used by IFI to tackle illegal fishing. IFI encourages the public to report illegal fishing incidents or those related to water pollution or fish kills using its 24-7 confidential phone number.


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