Minister hits out at river patrol attacks

�/Lorcan Doherty Photography - November 2nd 2011. ''NO FEE FOR REPRODUCTION''Agriculture Minister visits Derry.''Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill linspects some of the illegal netting captured by the Lough's Agency with fishery officers Dawn Hynes and Hughie Sweeney during her visit to the Derry office.' 'Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography

�/Lorcan Doherty Photography - November 2nd 2011. ''NO FEE FOR REPRODUCTION''Agriculture Minister visits Derry.''Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill linspects some of the illegal netting captured by the Lough's Agency with fishery officers Dawn Hynes and Hughie Sweeney during her visit to the Derry office.' 'Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has hit out at those behind attacks on anti-poaching patrols in the Foyle area.

In one particular incident during the summer, a breeze-block was dropped from Lifford Bridge onto a patrol boat.

The Agency’s Director of Conservation and Protection, John McCartney, says workers have been assaulted and had stones thrown at them.

During a visit to the Loughs Agency Headquarters in Derry on Wednesday, Minister O’Neill said she would do all in her power to ensure the attacks stopped.

“I intend to meet with the Justice Minister and the Chief Constable to discuss a united approach and to explore ways of ensuring that Loughs Agency staff are able to carry out their duties without fear of being attacked,” she said, going on to praise the “perseverance and dedication” of Loughs Agency staff for their “valuable work.”

The Minister also met with Agency staff, toured the premises and listened to a presentation of the work carried out by the Agency.

She said: “The Agency does considerable work to prevent poaching and protect fish stocks in the areas for which it has responsibility and I saw today for myself the substantial amount of equipment that Agency staff have seized from poachers in the course of their duties.”

She also visited the Agency’s Riverwatch interpretative centre.

“Riverwatch,” she said “is an example of how Loughs Agency use their resources to inform the public of the social, environmental and economic resources of the loughs and their tributaries. Riverwatch was a very popular attraction even before the introduction of new tanks and interactive displays last year and has welcomed over 100,000 visitors since its opening in 2003.

“I encourage people to consider using this education resource which Loughs Agency make available to schools, communities and business organisations all over Ireland.”