Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Questions (223)

Mick Wallace


223. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures the National Parks and Wildlife Service is taking to ensure effective protection of the north Atlantic salmon in the river Slaney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3080/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) comes under the aegis of my Department and is the agency responsible the protection, management and conservation of the inland fisheries resource. In delivering this function, IFI adapts development, protection and environmental/conservation practices to maximise the return on state investment in policing, conserving and developing the resource.

The majority of the fisheries on the River Slaney are in private ownership. Nevertheless, IFI adopts a wide-ranging protection strategy and delivers an associated broad protection programme on the Slaney system encompassing coastal (from Arklow to Bannow Bay), estuarine and freshwater (main channel and tributaries) environments.

Protection measures are delivered through the operation of highly trained, skilled and experienced inland fishery protection and surveillance teams, enabled through deployment of state-of-the-art technology and supporting infrastructure, on a 24 hour, 365 day basis.

The implementation of proven traditional work practices has been augmented by the increasing use of new innovative approaches such as kayak and bike patrolling, dog assisted patrolling and covert surveillance using advanced digital technologies. These innovations have assisted in deployment of protection resources and have delivered significantly improved efficiency and effectiveness on the River Slaney system and at a national level. A total of 2,746 person hours were spent on protection patrolling by the IFI staff in 2017 which included kayak, foot, bicycle and vehicle patrols on the main channel of the River Slaney, its tributaries and some other small coastal rivers.

IFI has established a wide-ranging network of stakeholders who liaise with staff regarding possible illegal activity on the River Slaney system. IFI has also experienced year on year increases in reports received to its 24 hour emergency telephone hotline. IFI staff respond to, and act on, all valid communications and information relating to poaching on the River Slaney system received via the 24 hour emergency telephone hotline and other communications and information sources. All this facilitates pre-emptive action by Fisheries Protection Teams when a potential threat is identified.

IFI operates a confidential hotline number to enable members of the general public to report incidents -1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24. This phone line is designed to encourage the reporting of incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and invasive species.

In the case of serious infringements of fisheries legislation, IFI initiates prosecution proceedings, in some instances in conjunction with the Gardaí. Gardaí have pursued 4 cases in conjunction with IFI arising from incidents in 2017. In addition, a system of "Fixed Charge Notices" also facilitates enforcement of fisheries legislation without recourse to the Courts process. This system has enhanced the regulatory capacity of IFI and has improved levels of compliance nationally.

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 26.