25th February 2019
A nation of anglers are celebrating given that the Designated Salmonid Waters bye-law No. 264 (2018), dubbed by many as the ‘anti-pike bye-law’, was today (25th February 2019) annulled by Justice Noonan in the High Court. The legislation provided for the designation of Loughs Corrib, Mask, Conn, Cullin, Carra, Arrow and Sheelin and their tributaries to be managed primarily for the benefit of salmonid species and introduced a daily bag limit of 4 pike (of any size) in those waters.
The bye-law was initially drafted by Seán Kyne, TD, who previously had responsibility for inland fisheries and was signed on October 25th by Richard Bruton, TD, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on behalf of Seán Canney, TD, the Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources with responsibility for fisheries. Bye-law No. 264 completely and conveniently ignored not only the latest genetic evidence that pike are in fact native to Irish waters (Pedreschi et al., 2014) but also the recent pike diet research by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) which concluded that pike do not preferentially feed on brown trout in Irish lakes, as had been vehemently maintained by pro-pike culling advocates.
In fact, not only was the recently annulled bye-law enacted without the advice or any consultation with the statutory body (IFI), but it was written in advance of both the pike diet study (IFI, 2018) and the conclusion of a two-year long review process by all stakeholders. As well as existing as a keystone species in Irish waters, angling for pike is worth over €100m to the Irish economy annually (NSAD, 2015) and there was no justifiable scientific nor economic provisions for the drafting of bye-law No. 264, nor was there any attempt to provide it at any stage. The case supporting the bye-law was found to be indefensible in the High Court and has been annulled.
“The case supporting the bye-law was found to be indefensible in the High Court and has been annulled”
The annulment of this legislation is largely as a result of an extensive campaign instigated and maintained by the Irish Pike Society (IPS) and Irish Federation of Pike Angling Clubs (IFPAC), who raised significant funds via federations, clubs and, importantly, many anglers to challenge the legislation in the High Court in an unprecedented case. Speaking outside the High Court, IPS Chairman Ian Forde said “Far from improving salmonid stocks, the preponderance of available scientific evidence clearly pointed to the conclusion that this bye-law would have been hugely detrimental to salmonid stocks”.
Although clearly pleased with the outcome, Mr. Forde was keen to stress that “Whilst we welcome this decision, we are angered that narrow-minded, self-serving local politics such as that practiced by Minister Kyne, have led to a disgraceful waste of time, expense and energy for so many people”.
“This is a good day for all anglers in Ireland”, Mr. Forde added. “…not only for pike anglers but also for trout anglers and for the visiting tourist anglers who spend close to €800m per annum in our economy”.
With the withdrawal of this by-law, pike in all Irish waters are now once again protected under the existing legislation whereby an angler is legally allowed to take one pike per day under a 50cm length limit. All pike greater than 50cm in length are protected by mandatory catch and release.