A 50-year-old north Clare man convicted of the possession of an unlawfully captured high-value 12lb wild salmon has told a court “I don’t eat salmon”.
At Kilrush District Court, James Mullane also admitted to Judge Mary Larkin that having the bludgeoned-to-death salmon in the boot of his car beside the Inagh River on the evening of May 20 2021 “does look bad, I know”.
The father of two denied killing or injuring the 80cm long female salmon and said when taking the salmon from the river it was already “stone dead”.
Mr Mullane of Monanagh, Ennistymon, said that he wanted to take the dead salmon home in order to take photos of it to highlight the impact a hydro turbine was having on the local salmon population.
He said: “I was kind of angry with what happened to the fish.”
Mr Mullane said that with fish on that stretch of the Inagh River at Ennistymon “if pollution doesn’t get them, otters get them”.
Judge Larkin commented ‘that’s a new one” and solicitor for Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), Adrian Frawley told the court that an otter wouldn’t cause the serious injuries that were inflicted on the female salmon.
IFI Fisheries Officer, Bill Keane told the court that the salmon was probably killed as a result of blows from a fisherman’s ‘gaff’. He told the court that his search of the area didn’t find any weapon.
Mr Mullane said: “I had no weapon. I had no gaff.”
Mr Keane said that the four-year-old salmon was “very valuable” from a conservation point of view and had the ability to spawn 4,000 eggs on the Inagh River that has been closed to salmon and sea trout fishing since 2006 because of its conservation status.
Mr Frawley stated that a wild salmon like that “fetch huge prices”.
Mr Keane said that the salmon had survived multiple winters at sea and “was at the height of its health” before being deliberately killed on May 20 2021 at the Inagh River and died from blunt force trauma with its eyes taken out.
The stand-off and chase between Mr Keane and Mr Mullane took place a short distance from the cascades at the Inagh River which has been the setting for a Fr Ted scene in the past.
Mr Keane recounted that as he gave chase to Mr Mullane, Mr Mullane jumped into a car in the car-park of the Falls Hotel.
However, the car was unable to exit the hotel car-park after Mr Keane stood in the middle of the road preventing its exit.
Mr Keane said that Mr Mullane then ran towards the Inagh River with a salmon in his hand and threw the salmon into the river.
Mr Keane said that he was able to retrieve the dead salmon from the river as evidence and photos of the fatally-injured salmon were handed into court.
A former licensed fisherman, Mr Mullane denied being in control of the unlawfully caught salmon or obstructing Mr Keane.
Judge Mary Larkin convicted Mr Mullane on both counts and imposed combined fine and costs of €1,016 on the construction worker for having in his control the salmon in the townland of Castlequarter Ennistymon on May 20 last year.
Judge Larkin also convicted Mr Mullane of obstructing a Fishery Officer, Bill Keane on the same date, imposed a fine of €100 and ordered Mr Mullane to pay IFI costs of €916.
The judge said that it was “very sad” to see a salmon with such injuries.