THE Athy and District Anglers Club had what was described as a very positive meeting recently on the topic of stopping illegal fishing on waterways in the Athy area.
The meeting involved local Athy MD councillors, district manager Niall Morrissey from Kildare Co Council, representatives from Inland Fisheries Ireland and local community garda Seán O’Mahony, and the process of introducing a catch and release bye-law for a 12-mile stretch (six miles either side of the town) has begun to protect fish stocks, related tourism and the waterways.
Club chairperson John Shaughnessy described the measure as one that would be good for the town and the club.
When asked what the proposed bye-law would introduce, he gave the example of ten people fishing on the Barrow near the town’s bridge. Those ten people, he said, can legally take four fish under 250cm, a total of 40 fish. “If they come down five or six times a day, that’s four or five hundred fish a day… and that’s just that area,” John said, noting that should the bye-law be introduced it would be a case of catching and throwing the fish back in.
“We’re on the right track,” he remarked, praising local councillors for pushing the issue and describing it as a step with the long-term in mind. “It’d be well worth it.”
John also highlighted issues with people using live bait. During an operation in late October, for example, gardaí in Athy in conjunction with Waterways Ireland officers discovered individuals who were allegedly using live bait to catch pike, a practice gardaí said is illegal and is decimating fish stocks in our waterways.
Cllr Brian Dooley – who had previously tabled a motion on the topic of a catch and release clause – was one of those who attended the meeting chaired by Cathaoirleach Mark Wall. He explained that the 12-mile stretch includes the Barrow and the canal and that the process could take a number of months; one that would include an opportunity for the public to make submissions at a later point before going to Ministerial level. “Hopefully most people will be for it,” he said.
The proposed measure is not about stopping people from fishing but conservation and fair use. Cllr Dooley added that there would be on-the-spot fines for those found not to be compliant and that gardaí could enforce the measure through court prosecutions.
“Hopefully, come six months’ time, we’ll have the catch and release in that 12-mile stretch,” he said.