Night time kayak patrols aim to catch poachers

Use of covert cameras in known poaching hotspots proving very successful

Addressing a conference on wildlife crime in Co Meath today, Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd  said officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) “were taking the fight to the poachers” in an effort to protect Ireland’s image as a “clean, green, environmentally friendly” country.

Addressing a conference on wildlife crime in Co Meath today, Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd said officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) “were taking the fight to the poachers” in an effort to protect Ireland’s image as a “clean, green, environmentally friendly” country.

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 18:50

Night vision scopes, thermal imaging equipment, covert cameras; it’s not the sort of gadgetry normally associated with a fisheries officer.

However, according to Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd, this type of detection equipment is now being used to protect wild fish stocks from poaching.

Addressing a conference on wildlife crime in Co Meath today, Mr O’Dowd said officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) “were taking the fight to the poachers” in an effort to protect Ireland’s image as a “clean, green, environmentally friendly” country.

He said night time kayak patrols were now being conducted with thermal imaging equipment along some of the country’s largest river systems, “and they have significantly aided in the detection of riverine nets”.

Some of the “best successes” in catching poachers, he said, had come from the use of covert cameras in known poaching hotspots.

He said officers were no longer simply going out “randomly on patrol” but were targeting specific areas with the latest high-tech detection equipment.

The Minister said IFI had also adopted a pilot programme to train sniffer dogs to be able to detect poaching nets.

Quad bikes and jet skis were also being used to patrol the country’s coastal areas for illegal bass fishing.

Unfortunately, Mr O’Dowd said there were too many people in Ireland who failed to take account or understand the impact of wildlife or environmental crime.

“There are a lot of people out there, who, for whatever reason, would take the last salmon from a river with a net, for their own purpose.”

“These people, I would postulate, are the same kind of people who would shoot deer illegally or engage in other types of wildlife crime.”

There were 98 prosecutions initiated last year for fisheries-related offences, but Mr O’Dowd acknowledged the figure represented “the lower end of the activity spectrum” as most breaches are not prosecuted.

In 2012, IFI seized over 24.5 kilometres of illegal poaching net from the country’s waterways. Earlier this year, 4.2 kilometres of illegal nets were seized in one western river district in July alone.

“Ireland is a beautiful, wonderful, country with a fantastic natural heritage and a diverse natural flora and fauna. It is, like many things, sometimes taken for granted,” Mr O’Dowd told delegates.

There has been a perception that wildlife or environmental crime does not really effect anyone.

“Phrases like ‘only a few fish for the pot’ were unfortunately all too common in District Courts throughout the country when people were asked to justify their illegal fishing activities.”