Illegal nets kill protected otters at Lady's Island
ILLEGAL fishing nets being cast in Our Lady's Island lake are drowning protected wildlife species like otters.
Fisheries officials have expressed alarm at the use of banned fyke nets on the lake, after the discovery of two dead otters last week.
Stephen Byrne of the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board and Tony Murphy from the National Parks and Wildlife Service made the discovery after visiting the the south western shore of the lake on March 23.
The two dead otters were found in a series of seven fyke net sets in the shallow waters of the lake.
Otters have been a protected species in Ireland since 1976, and Ireland has long been considered a stronghold for the species in Europe.
Worryingly, according to Mr. Murray, that position is changing. 'Recent surveys show that the otter is not as widespread as it once was, indeed in certain Euopean countries the otter has become extinct,' he said.
He added that Ireland has an obligation under national and European law to protect the animals. 'It is an offence to deliberately capture, kill or injure an otter. It is alo an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb an otter in its resting place, or to damage or destroy their resting and breeding places,' he said.
Fyke nets have been used in Ireland since the 1960's but were banned last year.
The Fisheries Board confiscated all of the nets found at Our Lady's Island on the day of discovery.
Mr. Murray explained that Our Lady's Island Lake is listed as a special area of conservation and a special protection area because of it's diverse habitats and species.
'This area of Wexford is one of the best places in Ireland to visit to see and study wildlife, from a diverse selection of flora and unique plants like cottonweed, to a myriad selection of breeding birds,' he said.
The Fisheries Board were alerted to the illegal fishing nets in Our Lady's Island by members of the public, and stated that additional information on similar matters would be welcomed.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service can be contacted on 1800 405000 or through the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve on 053 9123129.