With the fishing season beginning in March, Operation Salar was launched last week at the River Bush Salmon Station, Bushmills, aiming to combat fish poaching and protect fish stocks across Northern Ireland.
Operation Salar is a new initiative 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.
The Bushmills 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.
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 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.”
Members of the fish poaching sub group include PSNI, Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, Loughs Agency, Countryside Alliance Ireland, British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Ulster Angling Federation.