LOUGH Neagh fishermen have reacted angrily to a council move to lease a boathouse to bailiffs close to Ballyronan.
The decision, taken by Magherafelt District Council, means enforcement officers with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Dcal) will have a permanent base on the northern shoreline for the first time.
The lease will span ten years and will see the government department pay £1,000 annually to the council.
The move was supported by Sinn Fein, which proposed a motion to back the recommendation from council officers, and was seconded by the DUP.
Fishermen now want to know why they were not consulted about the boathouse plan, and called for greater engagement from Dcal with the local fishing community.
“That Magherafelt council didn’t think consultation eas necessary is beyond belief,” one told the Irish News.
“Dcal should make more effort to engage with local fishing communities and stock the lough rather than attempt to police struggling communities in a heavy heanded way.”
A spokesman for Dcal told the paper that betwene January and October last year, 34 kilometres of illegal nets were seized and 21 people were “apprehended for illegal fishing activity”.
“As well as increasing the visibility of Dcal’s enforcement activities on Lough Neagh it will improve response times and allow officers to more effectively detect and apprehend offenders.”
Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in Ireland and Britain and is home to several commercial fisheries including the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-Operative Society and private processors.
While the eel cooperative employs its own bailiffs, Dcal officials are understood to operate from the lough’s southern shoreline where they launch regular boat and land patrols.
With this Magherafelt Council move, bailiffs will now have launching points on both ends of the lough.