A single salmon caught illegally by a Donegal fisherman has ended up costing him almost €700 in fines and prosecution costs.
Mark Conneely of Glenlee, Killybegs was before Donegal District Court on Monday. He admitted that on July 6, 2021 On 06072021 at sea, off Rosscorcan Head, Drumanoo, he had a net for the purpose of taking fish in a prohibited manner.
He also pleaded guilty to using a boat for the commission of an offence as part of the incident. Conneely further admitted having in his possession one salmon which had been unlawfully captured.
Inland Fisheries Ireland officer, Alan Stewart, told the court: “On the day in question, I was involved in poaching patrol.”
At 14.30 he undertook foot patrol and at 14.50, Mr Stewart came across what he described as ‘a surplus amount of gill net.’
It was explained to the court that a gill net floats, while a certain amount of net goes down below the surface. Salmon go into the net and become trapped. The salmon were returning up river at the time.
“I took up a concealed position,” said Mr Stewart. “I waited to see if anyone would come back to the net.”
The officer said that at 19.40 a small boat came around the head, and a man on board inspected a buoy before coming alongside the length of the net and lifting a piece of rope.
“He started hauling the net into the boat,” said Mr Stewart.
“I had a clear, unobstructed view with binoculars. As he was hauling the net, a salmon appeared. He grabbed it by the tail and put it in the boat with the net.”
The man in the boat then went to an inlet and deposited a bag from the boat onto the shore.
Mr Stewart went to the shoreline and found that the bag contained the net and the salmon.
As he left the area, Mr Stewart encountered a black Mitsubishi driven by the defendant.
Mr Stewart’s colleagues dealt with the matter while the officer went to Killybegs. He returned, and the defendant was cautioned.
Solicitor for the accused, Diarmaid Barry said that his client had been exceptionally cooperative.
Mr Stewart replied: “He was very quiet - slightly stunned, perhaps.”
Judge Sandra Murphy asked about the size of the salmon.
The fisheries officer replied that it was an adult fish.
Mr Barry told the court that his client was 28 years old and a fisherman by occupation. He stressed that the Conneely had been extremely cooperative.
“He put his hands up on the night,” said Mr Barry.
The solicitor added: “In the old days this would be regarded as ‘fishing for a feed.’”
He appealed to Judge Murphy to only convict his client on one charge, and to take the others into consideration.
Judge Murphy agreed to do so, but expressed concern that the defendant lived very close to where the incident had occurred.
The court heard that the total maximum fines for the offences were in the region of €15,000. However, the defendant had no previous convictions.
“The temptation is there,” she said. “If Mr Conneely comes in front of me again, I will be dealing with this more seriously.”
She imposed a fine of €500 for the charge of possession of a net, and ordered Conneely to pay prosecution costs of €179.27.
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