Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the legal position regarding public access and fishing rights as they apply to naturally occurring lakes here.
Reply from Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd (pictured): Ownership of fishery rights, as distinct from ownership of the bed and soil of a river or lake, is a property right set out in relevant title or other relevant documents. In consequence, as the Deputy will appreciate, the complexity of the ownership of fishing rights means that the position varies from lake to lake. The owners of fishing rights and their agents have a right to reasonable access. The allocation of the right to fish is a matter for those who own fishing rights on particular lakes or rivers. In some instances ownership of fishing rights, going back significantly in time, is fragmented and can be ambiguous, with some lakes being in State ownership and some in private ownership. My Department has no role in the allocation of privately owned fishing rights, or in investigating fishery right title.
Some fishing rights are clearly identified property rights and are ‘rated fisheries’ whereby the fishery owner pays an annual rate (similar to a commercial rate) to the State via Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) – in these instances the fishery would normally be identified on their property title. There are other lakes where the fishing rights are owned by the riparian property owners.
IFI is working with my Department on a major project to modernise, consolidate and simplify the law pertaining to inland fisheries. The review of legislation is currently at the public consultation stage and my Department will be examining proposals improving access to waters as part of this process as well as seeking to clarify, in as far as possible, the issue of ownership of fishing rights.
A key objective of this process is to put in place the legislative basis to allow IFI to develop the potential of the sector, mainly by increasing the number of anglers utilising the resource, empowering stakeholders to take an active role in the development of the resource and to maximise the returns from the inland fisheries resource to local communities and the State.