24 February 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

A considerable good news story for the Monaghan area, and for the beleaguered angling tourism sector of our county, was confirmed at Monday night’s meeting of Monaghan Town Council when details were outlined by a three-member delegation of a major international coarse fishing event to be held on waters in and around the county capital in October of this year.
Recent publicity generated by coarse fishing in this county has been of the adverse type.
Concerns have been raised about illegal poaching practices that have been perceived as depleting the once rich stocks of our rivers and lakes to the extent that the once effulgent stream of visiting anglers from the UK has dried to a feeble trickle.
These concerns are certainly legitimate, and have been substantiated by a series of prosecutions in our local courts.
The quantification of the problem, however, has been difficult, with its exact impact not easily or quickly discernible – and the want of concrete statistics has perhaps engendered a tendency towards exaggeration that has had the inadvertent impact of fuelling a negative image for this aspect of our tourism trade that has manifested in a decline of interest in the overseas markets that have traditionally fed it.
It was therefore heartening to hear from the delegation that addressed the Town Council on Monday that stock levels in Monaghan lakes and rivers have proved robust despite the illegal depletion they have been subjected to in recent times.
The fact that such an important event in the coarse angling calendar as the International Team Challenge between Ireland and Great Britain has been secured is a self-evident demonstration of both the quality and durability of fishing in this part of the country – and one of the beneficial effects of Monaghan’s hosting of this event is that this message should be widely disseminated among potential visiting anglers both by the participants in the competition and the travelling retinue of specialist journalists who will cover the two-day contest and the practice activities preceding it.
An important showcasing opportunity now presents for the Monaghan tourism sector – and it is important that the local response is enthusiastic and well co-ordinated.
The Town Council set a good example in this regard by agreeing to host a civic reception for the visiting anglers and their retinue – we hope that the local hospitality sector and the commercial sphere in general will follow suit with strategies to make our visitors’ stay in the Monaghan area as hospitable and memorable as possible.
As the delegation pointed out, previous hosting of this event at venues in both the UK and Ireland has generated the dividend of repeat visits by the participating anglers enticed to return by both the calibre of fishing they enjoyed and the warmth of the welcome they received.
The best publicity from a tourism perspective is that generated by word of mouth, and a great deal of restorative good can be done to this county’s reputation as a coarse fishing treasure trove by the positive ripple effect that will flow from our visiting anglers out among their fellow enthusiasts if their October experience is a positive one.
This county does not have a richness of natural advantages to rival that of competitor locations when it comes to attracting tourist revenue – but it does have a magnificent resource in its waterways, and the restoration of our reputation as a location for angling holidays would be a very timely fillip that could be productively co-ordinated with the pending development of the major Ulster Canal project through the evolution of holiday packages with both scenic and fishing emphasis.
It is vital, however, that our waters receive sturdy and enhanced protections from the poaching depredations to which they are periodically subjected.
In this regard some important issues were highlighted to the Town Council by water bailiff Brian Byrne, a local resident and Secretary of the Irish Federation of Pike Anglers, who highlighted the need for prohibitive signage in the Peter’s Lake area as a deterrent to the illegal removal of pike.
While the effectiveness of such notification has often been questioned, its absence is hardly an assist to those whose work it is to protect our fish stocks – and could even be cited in mitigation by those who are prosecuted for breaches of the law in this regard. Such signage should be prominently displayed at all the county’s important fishing locations.
We would also suggest as a useful future exercise in advance of the hosting of the international event later this year that a similar delegation to the one that addressed our Town Council on Monday should visit each of the Joint Policing Committees in the county to discuss the law and order issues arising in this area.
This would clarify the role of the Gardai and the local authority with regard to the protection of fish stocks, and perhaps serve as an emphasis to the public of their own role as guardians and watchdogs of this important feature of our natural environment.
The possibility of introducing by-laws that explicitly prohibit the removal or killing of pike and other coarse fish from Co Monaghan lakes and rivers was also raised by Mr Byrne and is something worthy of consideration by our county and town authorities, and might give some force of local legislative enactment to the decision already taken to enshrine Monaghan as a catch and release county in its statutory Development Plan.
In commending the local angling activists and organisations that played an influential role in securing this important event for our county, we would also encourage our local authority, commercial and community organisations to consider in the months to come how they can contribute to maximising the considerable tourism benefit that is to be mined from it.
An opportunity for a Monaghan tourist angling renaissance is at hand, and it should be taken full advantage of.

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