The net is closing in on fish poachers with the launch of ‘Operation Silver Fin’.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland have teamed up with the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs, Inland Fisheries, Loughs Agency and An Garda Siochana along with wildlife groups as part of an operation to target illegal fishing.

The launch was held at Waterways Ireland in Enniskillen this week with Chief Inspector Roy Robinson stating: “The PSNI are committed to tackling wildlife crime including fish poaching in conjunction with our partners. Wildlife crime is taken extremely seriously by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The significance of this kind of crime cannot be over stated.”

Poaching usually includes the use of long lines and nets and these methods are only permitted in certain areas. Anyone fishing in rivers and lakes requires a licence and permission from the fishery owner. There are also regulations in place to protect fish stocks by specifying times when people can fish, what methods are allowed, bag limits or size limits of fish that can be taken.

“Operation Silver Fin is a new initiative originally launched in the Lough Neagh area a few months ago. Operation Silver Fin focuses on encouraging the public to report suspected fish poaching to the appropriate agency, enforcing fishing regulations and increasing awareness of the legislation surrounding fishing and the importance of protecting fish stocks,” Chief Inspector Robinson said.

Emma Meredith, PSNI Wildlife Officer was also at the launch said she was “delighted to see local police, DAERA Inland Fisheries, Loughs Agency and An Garda Siochana working together to combat fish poaching and associated crimes.”

Art Niven, DAERA Inland Fisheries, Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer said that fishing was an important part of the make up of Fermanagh and that it had to be protected: “Recreational fishing is an important part of the Fermanagh economy with local and visiting anglers contributing significantly towards this. Upper and Lower Lough Erne and the surrounding waters provide some of the best recreational fishing in Europe. Stunning scenery provides an appropriate backdrop for unlimited fishing adventures with excellent habitat and water quality available for highly sought after fish species including Trout, Salmon, Pike, Bream, Roach and Perch. DAERA Inland Fisheries responsibility includes the conservation and protection of fish, their habitats and the promotion of angling”.