Poaching of salmon is far from a ‘harmless’ act, according to the Inland Fisheries. The organisation believes the illegal practice is having a serious impact on fish stocks in Erris, with one river suffering a 50 per cent decrease in the number of salmon in its waters.
In the last year 43 illegal fishing nets totalling a length of 3,000 have been confiscated from salmon rivers in the Erris region. The nets are operated by ‘highly-organised professional poaching operations’.
“There is an urban myth that poaching is harmless,” explained Inland Fisheries inspector Michael Hughes, “but there are 141 rivers in the county with only 52 in operation and the remaining 88 are closed to salmon. The Owenmore river has seen a 50 per cent decrease in the number of fish in the last year. That has resulted in a loss of 100,000 eggs to spawn in the river … it equates to vandalism of the environment,” he said.
Inspector Hughes made his comments at last month’s sitting of Belmullet District Court, where seven people were due to appear on charges relating to poaching in the Owenmore and Glenamoy Rivers. The men, who are all from the locality, were found poaching by fishery officers in the early hours of the morning. Inspector Hughes said that poaching in the area was ‘a professional and commercial operation’ which he said was a ‘huge problem’ that affects the local community as well as the environment.
The court heard that the rivers were under the control of the Bangor Erris Angling Club, which is open to anybody to join. It was also told there are 44 licensed draftnet fishermen who pay €490 per year and depend on the salmon for their livelihood.
Inspector Hughes also added that angling in the area was worth €247,000 in tourism for the area. The court heard that the rivers were ‘weak’ and that if poaching continues, they would no longer be worth fishing and the community would suffer as a result.
James Ward, solicitor for the Inland Fisheries, said that bringing people to court was not the case of a state agency coming down hard on the ‘small man’ and they were there to ‘prosecute and not to persecute’.
Members of the public can report any suspected poaching in confidence by contacting Inland Fisheries Ireland in Ballina on 096 22788.
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