‘Guerilla warfare’ and ‘maritime ballet’ was how Judge Mary Devins described the engagement between a suspected salmon poacher and fishery officers at last week’s sitting of Achill District Court.
Michael McNamara of St Jude’s, Ballygahon, Avoca, Co Wicklow appeared before the court charged with the possession of a salmon and a net at Allennaun Point, Dooagh, Achill on July 22, 2011.
The court heard that fisheries officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland spied on Mr McNamara and another person from over a mile away using powerful scopes as he took a salmon from an illegal net near to Purteen Harbour. Despite the evidence against him and testimony from two fishery officers saying they saw him, Mr McNamara denied the charges.
The summons were served on Mr McNamara at his workplace in Galway after the Inland Fisheries phoned Galway City Council asking where he was working. Judge Devins said she was amazed at the lengths Inland Fisheries took to serve the summons and that there were other ways for summons to be served other than to go to a person’s employer, which she felt may have consequences on his future employment.
She said she was satisfied that they were both engaged in a form of ‘maritime ballet for some time’.
“They are engaged in guerilla warfare. Mr McNamara as an islander feels he can catch fish illegally while the Inland Fisheries feel he can’t,” he said.
Fisheries Officer Alan Cusack had earlier told the court that he could see a net set near Purteen Harbour in Achill and informed his Inspector Michael Hughes who told him to observe it at all times.
At five o’clock he explained he saw two people leave Purteen in a currach who went towards the net and started to clean it. They checked on lobster pots and at approximately 7.30pm they went towards the net and Mr Cusack claimed Mr McNamara put a salmon into a white bag.
They returned towards Purteen and Mr Cusack informed Inspector Hughes who said he also saw them take the salmon. Insp Hughes and another officer drove towards the harbour and said he saw the young person put the bag in the back of an escort van while Mr McNamara sat in the boat.
The van belonged to Mr McNamara and the retrieved the salmon by Insp Hughes who spoke to Mr McNamara. When he was asked about the salmon, he replied he did not know what he was talking about. The net was later retrieved.
Mr McNamara, native of Achill told the court he was checking lobster pots that evening but denied illegally fishing for salmon. He said there were two or three other currachs out on the water as well as other fishing boats.
Judge Devins found that the facts against Mr McNamara were proved but suggested that for ‘honour’ to be met on all sides, Mr McNamara would contribute €1,000 to the Achill Lifeboats and if he did all the charges would be struck out.