Inland Fisheries Ireland’s environmental role is delivered primarily by a network of Environmental Officers based throughout the country in each of our 6 River Basin Districts. Inland Fisheries Ireland’s environmental function and role can broadly be broken into 3 main themes:
Regulatory / Enforcement
Often with assistance from other Inland Fisheries Ireland staff, FEOs (Fisheries Environmental Officers) respond to and investigate what are broadly termed ‘water pollution’ or ‘water quality’ complaints received by Inland Fisheries Ireland on a 24/7/365 basis. Investigations are often carried out in co-operation and close liaison with staff in Local Authorities, the E.P.A., Waterways Ireland or other bodies / agencies. Despite similar or partially overlapping remits with other public authorities, Inland Fisheries Ireland’s legislative responsibilities have translated into workflows where Inland Fisheries Ireland is often the lead agency in any response to emergency water pollution incidents – in particular those incidents where a fish kill is reported. Investigations can extend to pollution incidents on cross-border rivers, where close cooperation with staff from relevant agencies in Northern Ireland is required. Typical regulatory non-emergency complaints include poor quality discharges to watercourses, illegal dumping, and issues relating to developments beside or close to rivers. These complaints are often transferred to other authorities where they are better placed to address them. Emergency scenarios often centre on significant ‘deleterious’ impacts on watercourse and associated mortality of fish and other aquatic animals and plants. Where legal proceedings are initiated, detailed reports and proofs are prepared by Fisheries Environmental Officers and expert evidence is given at District, Circuit and on occasion Circuit or High Court level.
It is important to highlight the recognition and role of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s environmental staff (among other Inland Fisheries Ireland staff) as ‘expert witnesses’ in the Irish judicial system. The Inland Fisheries Ireland Fisheries Environmental Officer is recognised as having the appropriate basis for their expert opinion, as having necessary credentials, as being highly trained and experienced in delivering technical evidence (both written material and verbal evidence) and having proven ability to communicate effectively while in the witness box. This expertise has delivered positive results for the resource in terms of legal convictions and associated awards to mitigate environmental damage.
Planning / Licensing / Compliance
Local Authorities and other agencies are obliged under legislation to notify and engage Inland Fisheries IReland on certain planning matters where an impact on the fisheries resource is possible. These agencies also require stakeholders (under their statutory powers) to consult with Inland Fisheries Ireland, and subsequently submit proof of compliance with Inland Fisheries Ireland’s requirements as a component of the national formal planning system. Beyond local pre-planning and planning a constant demand exists for input to Local Authority Development Plans, Screening and Scoping on Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) relating to major plans and national policies, Regional Planning Guidelines, Local Area Plans etc. SAC, SPA and NHA catchment plans and projects are subject to Appropriate Assessment (AA) where Inland Fisheries Ireland are also prescribed and notifiable.
Infrastructural elements impacting on surface waters (e.g. schemes such as wastewater/water treatment plants, water abstractions for potable supply, flood relief schemes, roads projects, housing, commercial waterside development) are evaluated and assessed from a fisheries legislative perspective. From design through to construction, Inland Fisheries Ireland environmental staff are involved in close liaison with the relevant parties (often public agencies and bodies), their design teams and the various contractors ‘on the ground’ to ensure habitat protection, control of pollution and conservation of the fisheries resource.
Expertise, knowledge and industry experience
Environmental investigation and assessment with associated communication of scientific and evidence-based reporting of outcomes to all is a critical element of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s proactive environmental function. The environmental team have fostered close working relationships with expert peers in sister agencies such as the EPA, the Local Authorities, NPWS, OPW and Waterways Ireland among others who value Inland Fisheries Ireland staff as experts in their field. The resulting ‘industry recognition’ facilitates significant collaboration with a strategic focus on delivery of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s goals and legislative responsibilities. This collaboration also facilitates national delivery (where remit of public authorities overlap and resources allow) of broader environmental goals associated with implementation of the Habitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive (and other National and European legislative provisions).
Stewardship and advocacy
Inland Fisheries Ireland’s environmental team focus on forming relationships, liaising and working with others to advocate for conservation, protection and development of the inland fisheries resource and the broader aquatic environment. Inland Fisheries Ireland’s environmental team are well placed as an expert scientific group with substantial real-world skills and experience to make a significant contribution to national guidance in respect of consistent and standardised delivery of Inland Fisheries Ireland's core legislative responsibilities. Having contributed to the original and revised National River Basin Management Plans for example, Inland Fisheries Ireland continue to liaise and engage with respect to technical implementation at RBD level. It is important to note that a key element of the EPA’s new strategy (based on EU guidance) is enhanced engagement and involvement of the local community in achieving sustainable solutions to challenges faced in the water quality and aquatic habitats area. Inland Fisheries Ireland has an excellent track record in this respect maintaining very close links to ‘special interest’ stakeholders (for example the angling community), in addition to the broader community of stakeholders who have an interest in (among other areas) surface water quality, biodiversity, sustainable development and climate action .