Equipment and technology
How we detect and monitor activity in Ireland's fisheries and our sea angling boundary to protect their aquatic environment.
As part of our protection remit, we have invested substantially in state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. This new technology has been integrated successfully with our existing, updated equipment and is aiding our officers by putting them in the best possible position to protect Ireland's fisheries for generations to come.
Today, we use several methods of detection to fulfil our protection duties. These comprise patrols on foot, in vehicles, and by boat (including kayaks and RIBs) in conjunction with deploying the latest technologies – all of which is transforming how we monitor and protect our angling habitats and resource.
Please view below information about the equipment and technology we use.
In recent years, the use of covert cameras has proved to be a useful tool for gathering knowledge and the subsequent apprehension of illegal fishermen throughout the country.
The cameras not only work to detect motion but also to send images to our Fisheries Officers, enabling them to act quickly and improve the chances of apprehending those fishing illegally.
Compliantly and responsibly deployed
Our covert cameras are only deployed under control conditions for brief periods of time, and their use is compliant with GDPR requirements. They are generally situated in remote areas where little traffic is seen, apart from those who might be illegally fishing. Signs are erected close to the location of the cameras to ensure the protection of any members of the public who may be in the area.
All footage is stored securely on encrypted SD cards within each camera, the codes for which are set to limit access to the camera itself.
We also use fixed CCTV cameras in areas where a high or consistent protection risk exists, such as at fish counters or certain weirs. These cameras are also used in compliance with GDPR requirements – a PIA (Privacy Impact Assessment) is completed for each location and, again, appropriate warning signage is displayed.
If the protection risk status for a location changes, our cameras may be removed without warning.
Drone (Small Unmanned Aircraft - SUA) programme
We operate a SUA (Small Unmanned Aircraft) service to enhance and improve our capacity to fulfil our statutory remit.
The majority of our operations entail aerial photography and videography for the following purposes:
- Field risk assessments (assessing risk to staff and risk to the fisheries resource)
- Aerial photogrammetry
- Environmental monitoring
- Location survey / promotion (e.g. angling locations, facilities etc.)
We also assist Ireland's primary response agencies in the event of an emergency, where practicable.
We employ a number of different task-specific SUA units depending on operational requirements. These include a broad range of fisheries protection, survey and monitoring activities under our statutory protection and conservation remits.
SUA fisheries protection activities address areas such as fish habitat (including water quality) survey and management and freshwater, estuarine and marine fish species protection. Several of our Fisheries Research Division programmes benefit from SUA use through the generation of data addressing areas, such as fish migration potential and hydromorphology.
We took the decision to deploy SUA (drone) technology for use by our field Operations Division staff to assess and subsequently mitigate risks to:
a) The health and safety of our staff in the field, who may encounter challenging scenarios and environments in the course of operational duties
b) The status of Ireland’s fish populations and their habitats (including risks relating to unlawful activity)
SUA’s will sometimes be used to survey areas prior to our staff being deployed on the ground, to ascertain the nature of any risks present. Both aerial photography and high quality video footage can assist our field operatives in performing their statutory role.
Our pilots are all Irish Aviation Authority (IAA)-qualified drone operators. All personnel operating as SUA Pilots for us have completed and passed the following:
• IAA approved Ground School
• IAA approved Flight School and Pilot Competency Certificate testing
• Specific Operating Permit training and testing in line with IAA / regulatory requirements
Each of our pilots is required to maintain operational currency standards by ensuring they operate an aircraft regularly for operational or training purposes. We adopt best industry practice to ensure that all SUA flight operations take place according to the national regulations, guidance and recommendations.
We have used thermal imaging devices since 1997, as they have also proved themselves to be a key tool in the detection of illegal activity at night and in adverse weather conditions.
Our Protection Officers use thermal imaging devices (monocular and binocular) for covert observation of areas at night-time where illegal activity is suspected. This equipment enables long-distance observation, which can be critical to maintaining covert status. It is typically used by officers on protection operations targeted to deal with severe threats to the resource such as illegal netting in rivers, estuaries and at sea.
The equipment is deployed in compliance with relevant restrictions per the Inland Fisheries Ireland Data Protection Policy, the Data Protection Act 2018 (which revised the Data Protection Act 1998 and Data Protection Act 2003) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2018.
We update our inventory of thermal imagers regularly to keep pace with the ever-evolving technology. Today’s models are lighter, smaller and far more powerful than earlier versions.
Spotting scopes are now extensively used by our Protection crews around the country to enable our Fisheries Officers to monitor angling activity or fishing activities at sea from a safe distance.
These scopes give our officers the opportunity to gather vital intelligence that may subsequently assist in the successful apprehension of individuals engaged in illegal fishing or netting. As such, spotting scopes are now an integral part of our Fisheries Officers' equipment and have been used successfully nationwide in the detection, apprehension and prosecution of persons who persist in engaging in illegal netting or angling activities.
Case study example
During a recent surveillance operation in north-west Donegal, spotting scopes were used to gather vital information which was used for successful prosecution of two individuals who were engaged in fishing of an illegal 400 m net at sea, approximately two miles off the coast.
On the first morning of the operation, a boat was observed leaving a local pier and travelling out to service a swinging net set at sea from which several salmon were removed. On the following day, the same vessel with the same individuals on board, was again observed to service a net in the same location where they were again observed removing several salmon from the net.
Unfortunately during the day, our staff temporarily lost sight of the vessel around the coast so it was decided not to try and intercept the vessel when it came ashore as there was a break in the continuity of evidence.
On the third day of surveillance in the same location, fisheries staff observed the vessel and the same two individuals to leave the pier at daybreak and proceed to where the swinging net was located where they removed one salmon from the net. The vessel was kept under constant observation for the rest of the morning until it returned to port.
Our Fisheries Officers intercepted the vessel when it came ashore. One salmon was found after the vessel was searched. one of our Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB) was launched and the net was recovered. A prosecution file was subsequently prepared and as a result of the evidence gathered these two individuals were successfully prosecuted on each of the three days that they were observed servicing the net.
Delta RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats)
Delta 780HX Maritime Protection RIBs have proved to be invaluable in helping us fulfil our statutory responsibilities to protect, develop and manage Ireland’s 74,000 kms of rivers and streams, and also its 128,000 hectares of lakes.
They also enable us to patrol our 12-mile coastal jurisdictional limit to protect our valuable Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout stocks along with Bluefin Tuna and Native Oysters.
For many years, we have operated a fleet of RIBs of various types to fulfill our various duties. In 2016, we renewed this fleet. Tenders were sought for the provision of 12 specialist RIBs to incorporate the most up-to-date technological and safety standards.
An expert team including members of our management together with input and oversight from the Marine Survey Office, selected Delta as the preferred supplier at the end of a comprehensive tendering process. The result is the Delta 780HX dedicated Maritime Protection RIB, the first of which entered service in 2018.
We now own 12 such RIBs deployed at an overall capital cost of €3.3 million. These RIB’s operate on an inter-district basis, both day and night, with a maximum crew of four Inland Fisheries Ireland Officers. They are located at strategic locations around the coast, with crews who have undergone extensive training and who are certified to international standards in the operation of such vessels.
Each RIB is fitted with a range of technical equipment and complies with the highest safety standard requirements. The Delta 780HX is powered by twin Yamaha 115 HP outboard engines with a fuel capacity of 330 litres, giving it an operational range of approximately 200 nautical miles at cruising speed.
Since their deployment, our Delta 780HXs have added additional protection capacity to our operations and have already been involved in numerous interceptions of illegal activity and seizures of significant quantities of netting.
While on protection duties, our Fisheries Officers often use kayaks as a form of both overt and covert patrolling.
The Prowler 14 kayak is preferred across the country for descending rivers from source to sea, kayaking lakes in search of signs of illegal fishing, checking anglers on all waterways, as well as being a very useful tool for surveying and researching activities.
Kayaks are an environmentally-friendly way of patrolling an entire river system. Since we first used them as a mode of patrolling in 2010, they have enabled our officers to move along rivers where access was previously impossible.
Our officers will often find nets or access areas where they can walk river banks in search of signs of illegal activity. These areas can then be monitored and patrolled more regularly if signs are detected. Prior to our kayak patrols, many of these areas were simply inaccessible.
This silent form of patrolling has proven its worth with illegal fishing detections, seizures and the apprehension of fishermen engaged in illegal activity on numerous occasions. Our staff receive training up to level 3 proficiency in kayaking and this, along with their knowledge, skills and swift water training, means kayaking is a safe and effective form of fisheries patrol.