Time to step up ‘war’ on fish poachers

Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly and Stormont Agriculture Committee member, has sent a blunt message to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to “step up the war on poachers who are wrecking havoc among the angling community”,

Mr Swann said this “no punches pulled strategy with poachers should be implemented sooner rather than later to combat the poaching menace”.

Assemblyman Swann is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and Past Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organisation. He is also UUP Chief Whip.

Mr Swann stressed he “fully intended to push” the Sinn Fein Farming Minister to publicise enforcement actions it takes as a deterrent, similar to the way in which DARD does.

The UUP Chief Whip said: “By doing this it will give confidence to the angling fraternity that poachers are prosecuted.

“As part of my personal campaign against these poachers, I am also asking the Sinn Fein Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether she plans to follow the lead of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in publishing, on the Northern Ireland Direct website, the names of people who have been subject to an enforcement action by her Department, or its arm’s-length bodies, and the fines they received,” said Assemblyman Swann.

He added: “In her response to me on this very serious issue for the angling community, the Minister told me she understood that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued press releases containing the details of prosecutions it has taken and these have been placed on the Northern Ireland Executive website.

“She said she can confirm that information on enforcement action taken by her Department under Fisheries legislation is already in the public domain through court records. Details may also be reported in the local press.

“The Department publishes a summary of prosecution information on fisheries offences on the NI Direct website.

“The Minister said she will consider the publication of more detailed prosecution information brought to her by officials on a case by case basis, for example, where offences are considered by the Department to be of a particularly serious nature, such as the use of illegal nets,” said Assemblyman Swann.