Man fined over Common Skate offence off Carnlough coastline

The case - believed to be the first ever prosecution in relation to the critically endangered Common Skate - was dealt with at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Hamish Currie, with an address in Portstewart, was fined £400 after pleading guilty to the offence of causing or permitting an unlawful act under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (NI) 2011.

Common Skate is an endangered species and is protected in Northern Ireland out to six nautical miles.

The DAERA patrol boat.

It is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly take, injure or kill Common Skate. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for such an offence is a fine of £5,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said: “This is believed to be the first ever successful prosecution in relation to Common Skate in Northern Ireland, and is another example of the Police Service working in partnership with other agencies and our approach to protecting wildlife.

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“We continue to encourage members of the public to report their concerns to us so we can work on investigations to secure successful outcomes.”

Inspector Timothy McCullough said: “This offence came to light during a joint patrol on February 2, 2020 in the Garron Point area using DAERA’s Fisheries Protection Vessel ‘Salar’ for an inspection at sea.

“Common Skate can only be landed and tagged for scientific reasons under a special licence issued by DAERA. When this offence was detected, no current licence was in force. Working in partnership with other agencies greatly increases our ability to detect and enforce this legislation and we welcome the court’s outcome.

“Further operations are planned.”

A DAERA spokesperson said: “This conviction is the result of excellent partnership working between DAERA and the PSNI.

“Common Skate are an Irish Red List critically endangered species that has still not recolonised former known haunts after dramatic declines in the past century.

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“Recreational sea anglers can help protect Common Skate by participating in a scientific tagging programme, providing data which may contribute to the recovery of this large, charismatic species.

“The Department thanks all anglers who have already contributed to this important research, but is prepared to prosecute those individuals who break the law.”

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