Published Friday, 05 October 2012
Lough Neagh is an extremely popular place to fish. (© Pacemaker)
The incident, which took place in the early hours of Thursday 2 August, led to police searching a property in Dungannon, Co Tyrone on Wednesday and seizing 40 stone of illegally caught fish.
An estimated six kilometres of illegal fishing net and a van were also seized at the property at Back Lower Road by police working in conjunction with Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure's Fishery Protection Officers.
Among the seized fish were quantities of Pollon, Perch, undersized and out of season Brown Trout, undersize Roach, Bream and eels.
DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has praised those cracking down on illegal fishing activities across the region.
The Minister said: "Efforts such as this are part of the ongoing work from DCAL to clamp down on illegal fishing across the north. Inland Fisheries officers do a difficult and at times dangerous job patrolling waterways around the clock to combat illegal fishing and protect fish stocks.
"DCAL, in conjunction with other agencies and law enforcement bodies, is increasing its efforts to target large-scale illegal operations which are using increasingly sophisticated and organised methods to take fish."
She continued:"Officers have the power to seize any equipment used to fish illegally, that includes everything from fishing rods and nets through to vehicles which take and transport fish.
"These continuing efforts, which are supported by the wider fishing and angling community, are vital to preserving our valuable natural resources."
Ms Ní Chuilín said that illegal fishing not only impacts upon legitimate fishermen and anglers, but highlighted that it does untold damage to underwater ecosystems.
"At a time when we are looking to defend our fishing stocks, those who fish unlawfully are destroying lifecycles and disrupting breeding patterns."
She said the department's officials are working on lakes, river banks and through the courts to deter, apprehend and prosecute illegal fishing.
Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann said Fisheries officers are "often subject to intimidation and physical attack."
The DCAL committee member said: "These officers are doing a vital job in seeking to ensure that illegal fishing activities are disrupted so that legitimate fishermen and anglers can fish and that underwater ecosystems and fish stocks are protected and they deserve our thanks and support."