In its annual report for 2020, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, has revealed that over 13 kilometres of illegal nets were seized by its protection officers and inspectors around the country last year. To put that figure into perspective, that’s enough illegal netting to line the runway at Dublin Airport five times over.

250 illegal fishing nets, measuring 13,158 metres in total, were among the 1,287 items seized by the agency on its patrols and inspections in 2020. Other items seized included spear guns, 238 rods/hand lines, traps, 761 illegally caught fish, and stroke hauls which are large-weighted hooks used to impale a fish.

Unless licenced, it is illegal to use a net for catching fish in freshwater due to the ecological damage they cause to fish populations and habitats, such as Wild Atlantic Salmon, Sea Trout and Sea Bass. Due to the severity of the offence and the environmental impact caused by illegal fishing, Inland Fisheries Ireland has a policy of bringing cases involving illegal nets directly to court. Those convicted can face fines and even prison sentences.