POLICE have joined forces with the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) to catch salmon poachers in the Glens.
Recent discoveries of illegal nets on local rivers, including the Glenarm, alerted the authorities to the danger of losing dwindling stocks to criminals.
A serious decline in the number of salmon returning to rivers here for spawning prompted DCAL to impose a moratorium on legal netting this year, but the move has prompted poachers to try and take advantage.
Police in Moyle are engaged in the joint operation with DCAL officials and in recent weeks have seized nets, a car and a number of fish. This week, the PSNI warned: “Robust action will be taken against anyone caught committing this type of activity in the area, which may result in prosecution through the courts and may also lead to boats and private vehicles being seized.”
Police also appealed: “Anyone who has any information regarding poaching in the area is asked to contact the police at Ballycastle on 0845 600 8000. Alternatively, information about crime can be passed anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity by calling 0800 555 111.”
East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan welcomed the crackdown, saying that salmon is key to tourism growth in the area. He added: “Angling is an important tourism activity and it is estimated that every salmon caught legally by a visitor equates to £1,000 for the local economy. Legal netting has been stopped for this year to try and increase stocks, and we can’t afford for these illegal poachers to come in cash in on the larger number of fish entering the rivers.
“Members of local angling clubs have been vigilant in reporting illegal nets when they find them and I would urge everybody to take note of any suspicious activity and report it immediately.
“We must not allow these gangs to come in and destroy the fish stocks that the clubs are building up. I would also appeal to those business people who buy the fish of these poachers to stop, because it is your involvement that encourages criminal gangs to continue this illegal practice.
“In discussions that I have had with the police, they have assured me that they will continue to work closely with Department officials, bailiffs and fishing clubs to catch and prosecute those involved.”