Published Tuesday, 18 February 2014
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The new initiative is organised between the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and the Loughs Agency.
It focuses on encouraging the public to report suspected fish poaching, enforcing fishing regulations and increasing awareness of the legislation surrounding fishing and the importance of protecting fish stocks.
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 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.
The initiative was launched on Tuesday at the River Bush Salmon Station at Bushmills, and involves increased monitoring by enforcement agencies and the production of a public information leaflet by the Partnership for Wildlife Action (PAW).
The event was also attended by Glenda Powell, chairperson of APGAI Ireland, the association of professional game angling instructors.
The Salmon Station is managed by DCAL and provides a fish farm and hatchery as part of the River Bush Salmon Research Project.
The project is vital in monitoring salmon stocks in the area and providing information on enhancing salmon stocks elsewhere where numbers are at a critical level or to reinstate where they are extinct, for example in the River Lagan.
While DCAL and Loughs Agency are concerned with fish poaching in their designated areas, they have chosen the River Bush location for the launch given its status as a well known salmon river.
However, Operation Salar will focus on waters across Northern Ireland, particularly in areas where local knowledge suggests poaching is prevalent.
Commenting on the launch, DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, said: "It is vital that we protect and maintain our fishing stock. Preventing poaching is vital to ensure long term conservation goals.
"The loss of any adult fish has the immediate effect of reducing the numbers available for anglers and in the longer term reduces the potential breeding stock in that water.
"We must ensure that the fishing of our Loughs and waterways are managed so as to ensure both commercial and recreational fishing are maintained in the long term."
PSNI Wildlife Officer Emma Meredith added: "PSNI are committed to tackling wildlife crime including fish poaching in conjunction with our enthusiastic and expert partners.
"We have recently trained local officers across Northern Ireland, including in the Moyle area, to tackle this crime.
"I would urge members of the public to report suspicious activity to DCAL, Loughs Agency or PSNI depending on the location, as advised by the leaflet."
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