Two men have been convicted and fined for illegal pike fishing following prosecutions taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

The men were convicted in Dundalk District Court earlier this month, on Thursday, September 2.

On the day, Ernestas Gaska, with an address of Riverside Drive, Dundalk, Co. Louth, received a €300 fine following his conviction.

Arturas Bagvilas, with an address of Bothair Na Carraig in Dundalk, received a €300 fine as well, following his conviction.

According to IFI, Inland Fisheries Ireland officers who had been on routine fisheries patrol in the area, told the court that Gaska and Bagvilas had been observed in the act of illegal fishing on Drumcah Lough, taking and killing pike.

The boat that was seized by Inland Fisheries Ireland is now automatically forfeited.

Evidence in relation to the offence was given before Judge Eirinn McKiernan and breaches of Fisheries legislation occurred on Sunday, October 11, last year, in the townland of Annagh, close to the Louth and Monaghan border.

According to IFI, there was an increase in illegal fishing activity recorded by its officers around the country last year.

The state agency initiated 119 prosecutions for fisheries-related offences in 2020, compared with 67 prosecutions in 2019. It also seized 1,287 illegal fishing items last year, up from 788 items the year before.

Commenting, Dr. Greg Forde, head of operations with Inland Fisheries Ireland, said: “Safeguarding Ireland’s fisheries resources is a round-the-clock job, involving planned day patrols, covert night patrols and intelligence-led surveillance operations.

“Despite the fact that there was a global pandemic and travel restrictions in place for the public for much of the year, our teams all over the country recorded a higher level of illegal fishing activity last year, compared with 2019.”