By Jerome Reilly
A huge black market in coarse fish like perch and bream, which are dinner-time favourites in Eastern Europe, has led to a huge increase in illegal fishing and poaching on Irish rivers and lakes.
But while coarse fish are being targetted by Eastern Europeans – with a spate of court cases and tackle seizures by fisheries officers – there is also a major problem of salmon poaching, mostly committed by Irish criminals.
A number of cases are due to come before the courts in the next few months, and earlier this month, two Lithuanian brothers, Roman and Vytas Maslauskas, received fines totalling €500 at Killaloe District Court and had their driving licences disqualified after they were convicted for illegal fishing of perch on Lough Derg in an action taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).
The agency is involved in a round of consultation before changes in the law aimed at improving safeguards and detection rates and increasing fines and penalties. Current penalties are not big enough to deter illegal fishing, according to legitimate anglers.
The two Lithuanians were fishing from a boat and had hi-tech gear including an electronic fish finder. When they were stopped, there was 32 perch on board, and two vehicles to be used to transport the catch were seized.
Judge John Durkan told the accused that Ireland's inland fisheries were among the most valuable in Europe and needed to be protected. "Those who abuse them must face serious consequences." More....