Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, and its contractor, Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd, have both pleaded guilty to breaches of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 in a case brought by Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Following reports of pollution in November 2021 along the Glenaboy River, a tributary of the Bride River, officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland found heavy deposits of silt, vehicle tracks in the river bed and a lack of adequate silt control in an area where Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd had been carrying out thinning operations on behalf of Coillte. As a result, Inland Fisheries Ireland estimated that significant damage had been done to spawning beds and that a valuable stretch of the river had been lost to spawning wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout that year.
Sitting before Judge Colm Roberts at Mallow District Court on November 28th 2022, Coillte pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 171 (1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959.
Also before the court on that date was Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd, which Judge Roberts believed were the main instigators of the silt discharge to the Glenaboy River.
Judge Roberts afforded Coillte the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act and ordered a payment of €2,000 to Tallow TidyTowns Committee. Oliver Kelly Timber Harvesting Ltd were also found guilty of a breach of Section 171 as well as Section 173 of the 1959 Act and Section 3 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act 1977. The company was also given the benefit of the Probation Act and ordered to pay €2,000 to the Tallow Anglers Association, €1,500 to the Tallow TidyTowns Committee and post a bond of €1,500 for a period of two years under Section 1-1(2) of the Probation Act.
The Court heard evidence that Inland Fisheries Ireland Officers, including Senior Fisheries Environmental Officer Andrew Gillespie, visited the location between November 20th and 22nd following reports of pollution. There was evidence of silt in the river over a five kilometre stretch downstream of the thinning operation’s location. Mr. Gillespie highlighted that the time of the occurrence – November - was particularly relevant as it was the critical spawning period and that the effect of the silt discharge would be to smother any eggs deposited in the spawning gravels.
Speaking in court, Judge Roberts remarked that Coillte “didn’t properly supervise” the thinning operations and that their contractor “didn’t supervise properly as he was overstretched,” before observing that “when state agencies fail in their obligations, we are in big trouble”.
Sean Long, Director of the South Western River Basin District at Inland Fisheries Ireland welcomed the decision, noting that neither Coillte nor their contractor had been before the courts before and had co-operated fully with Inland Fisheries Ireland to implement immediate mitigation measures at the site.
Speaking after verdict was delivered, Mr. Long said: “Located in the Munster Blackwater Special Area of Conservation, the Glenaboy River is a very important spawning ground for returning wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout, which are very vulnerable species protected by conservation measures and legislation. Sadly, the damage that was done to these spawning beds through pollution was significant, meaning that a valuable stretch of this river had been lost for spawning salmon and sea trout last year.”
Meanwhile, Inland Fisheries Ireland is urging members of the public to continue reporting any suspected cases of water pollution to its 24-hour confidential hotline. Open seven days a week, that number is 0818 34 74 24.
More information about the work Inland Fisheries Ireland is available at www.fisheriesireland.ie.
For media information
Sarah Bohan/ Sadhbh O’Neill
Inland Fisheries Ireland
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An image from the pollution incident is available on request.
About Inland Fisheries Ireland (www.fisheriesireland.ie)
Inland Fisheries Ireland is a statutory body operating under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Climate and Communication (DECC) and was established under the Fisheries Act on 1st July 2010. Its principal function is the protection and conservation of the inland fisheries resource. Inland Fisheries Ireland promotes supports, facilitates and advises the Minister on the conservation, protection, management, development and improvement of inland fisheries, including sea angling. Inland Fisheries Ireland also develops policy and national strategies relating to inland fisheries and sea angling and advises the Minister on same.