Ireland’s rivers are not protected from instream works

Did you know that outside of the salmonid close season there are no restrictions in relation to digging out, dredging, diverting or otherwise damaging rivers in Ireland? We have been told this by a Senior Environmental Officer of Inland Fisheries Ireland in response to ongoing queries in relation to works like these in the Shannon catchment.

We have been told that instream works in a river in Ireland “could only constitute an Offence under the Inland Fisheries Acts if carried [out] in the annual closed season“. This is stated in a letter to us dated 16th September 2014 (which has been retained on file). This means that instream works – no matter how damaging – are legal in Ireland if undertaken during the summer months. Or more importantly, are permitted by Inland Fisheries Ireland who have failed to put the relevant legislation in place to protect our rivers and their associated aquatic life and fisheries.

All instream works are currently legal in Ireland if undertaken during the summer months – Inland Fisheries Ireland

Following on from what Inland Fisheries Ireland have told us, it is clear that if you are a farmer, landowner or developer and you need to dredge, divert, or otherwise modify a river, then you are free to do this  – indeed it is your right to do this – during the period June to September. If the works are completed at this time then this is considered to be a legal activity. This is according to the correspondence we have to hand from Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency charged with protecting our aquatic resources.

Devastating instream works like this example on the Arigna River in Shannon catchment are legal in Ireland if undertaken during the summer months, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland. But are we getting the full story here? According to an answer given in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2012 these works were completed by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Devastating instream works like this example on the Arigna River in Shannon catchment are legal in Ireland if undertaken during the summer months, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland. But are we getting the full story here? According to an answer given in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2012 these works were completed by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Arigna River August 2014

Arigna River two years later (August 2014) with Japanese Knotweed now established – are Inland Fisheries Ireland responsible for this?

Therefore all instream works are currently legal in Ireland if undertaken during the summer months. You don’t need any permission from Inland Fisheries Ireland and these works are currently permitted in this country. This is currently the law in Ireland and this is the legal right and entitlement of any guy with access to a track machine, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Obviously we don’t think that this should be the case and are very disappointed by this. Indeed we simply do not understand why Inland Fisheries Ireland have failed to protect our rivers, and their associated aquatic ecological communities, from instream works. We believe that Inland Fisheries Ireland could use alternative legislation to protect our rivers, but appear to be unwilling to do so.

The fact that Inland Fisheries Ireland consider that there are no laws against devastating instream works being conducted in Ireland during the summer appears to explain why they always agree to such works when requests are submitted by developers, county councils, and bodies such as the OPW. Works like these are regularly undertaken throughout Ireland with apparently little or no concessions or consideration given to aquatic ecology and fisheries. It is clear that if such works are legal anyway, that IFI cannot request any mitigation. So what are these guys doing exactly?

Inland Fisheries Ireland apparently agree to everything in Ireland, and are not protecting our rivers appropriately, in our opinion. Inland Fisheries Ireland say the laws aren’t there, and then sideline the ones that are (i.e. European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011).

Click on any of the photos below to see a selection of our photos on damaging instream works in Ireland, undertaken by private individuals and companies, the OPW, County Councils and seemingly IFI themselves.

But are we getting the entire story?

The IFI admission referred to above in relation to the legality of sumertime instream works came as we were investigating one of the worst cases of instream works we have seen to date – the River Arigna, Co Roscommon. After several requests to provide an explanation, Inland Fisheries Ireland denied any involvement with the works on the Arigna River – see our previous post here. However, we are not convinced that this is the case and we are continuing to investigate this matter. According to an answer given in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2012 these works were completed by Inland Fisheries Ireland. Ireland’s rivers are not protected from instream works – do they need to be protected from IFI? It appears that Inland Fisheries Ireland – based on Pat Rabbitt’s statement in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2012 –  sued a wind farm developer, and then used the money to destroy the Arigna River. We will continue to investigate these works and will report our findings at a later stage.

Further information

Section 131 of The Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959

This Section states that “Every person who, during the annual close season for salmon and trout wilfully obstructs the passage of salmon or trout or the smolts or fry thereof or injures or disturbs any salmon or trout, or any spawn, fry or smolts thereof or injures or disturbs any spawning bed, bank or shallow where such spawn, fry or smolts may be, shall be guilty of an offence“.

– so it follows on from IFI logic that anyone can also wilfully obstruct the passage of salmon, trout and their smolts in the summer months.

The letter from IFI

Dear William

In response to your email of the 2nd September, sorry for the delay in replying, but I was out on leave.

Having looked at the link to the Oireachtas website, the first few paragraphs pertaining to works to be undertaken on the Arigna River seems to have been taken from a pre-court case proposal.  Following the court case, there was a revision of the programme of works and instream works were only carried out on the Owengar and Diffagher River.  For fish stock purposes the Arigna River was used as a control.  I can confirm that IFI have not conducted any in stream works on the Arigna River.

In relation to your second paragraph,

‘You never gave me an explanation of why a prosecution was never proceeded, and in your office I was told verbally by Fergus Lynch that IFI are unable to take prosecutions against perpetrators of such works if they are completed outside the salmonid close season.’

as you recall, both myself and Fergus Lynch explained to you at the time in person at our office in Drumsna.  The disturbance of gravels that you referred to at Gubharudda Bridge was carried out by the land owner in the open season, these works could only constitute an Offence under the Inland Fisheries Acts if carried in the annual closed season.

In relation to the Japanese Knotweed, IFI are aware of the presence of this species at this location and Dr Joe Caffrey has been informed of this situation.

I would also suggest that if you are concerned regarding an offence under the Habitat Regulations that you contact NPWS.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any queries.

regards

Catherine Kerins

 

Catherine Kerins
Fisheries Environmental Officer

Upper Shannon

Shannon River Basin District – Drumsna, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim
——————————————–
Iascach Intíre Éireann
Inland Fisheries Ireland

Tel      +353 (0)719624218

One response to “Ireland’s rivers are not protected from instream works

  1. Just wondering – if what you say above is true – how come Irish Fisheries spend large amounts money trying to take people to court for doing this work during the summer months? Why waste IFI, court and landowner’s money(aka taxpayer’s money) in the futile chasing of regular small time farmers/contractors who in fairness never know the laws until they are sprung upon by a summons instead of spending the money on communication with of landowners BEFORE the event? Few normal farmers willfully destroy the environment – even fewer are educated on the matter.

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