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05/05/2004

Minister launches new fisheries protection vessel

Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Angela Smith today emphasised the importance of enforcing fisheries legislation to counter illegal exploitation of salmon stocks.

The Minister was speaking in Ballycastle, where she was launching the new £150,000 Fisheries Conservation Board’s patrol vessel, the ‘Dun na Salar’.

The vessel, which replaces an existing vessel which had become unserviceable, will provide protection and surveillance against suspected illegal activity with repect to salmon stocks in Northern Ireland.

The Minister said: “Salmon stocks across the North Atlantic are at dangerously low levels and are under great pressure and it is essential to help ensure that returning salmon can reach river catchments to spawn.

“That is why offshore enforcement of legislation to protect and conserve these stocks is essential and this new vessel will play a vital role in that work. It will also support existing conservation measures being taken, including my Department’s buyout of commercial salmon nets and the Fisheries Conservancy Board’s salmon management plan.”

Angela Smith pointed out that she appreciated fully the importance of angling to the Northern Ireland economy. She added: “If we are to continue to attract visiting anglers to Northern Ireland, and particularly to the North Coast, we must do all we can to provide opportunities for quality angling in our salmon rivers.

“I am confident that this new boat will enable fishery protection officers to respond, at speed, to reports of suspected illegal activity and that it will help in our efforts to increase the level of salmon stocks in Northern Ireland.”

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure provided the funding to procure the 11 metre rib vessel.

The boat, which requires a minimum crew of two, will be skippered by Harry McKiernan, a Fishery Conservation Officer from the Fisheries Conservancy Board. Two other members of staff have also been trained, to the required level, to skipper the boat, provide cover and when necessary to facilitate 24-hour patrols.

(MB)

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