Friday, July 20, 2007

Hunt stepped up for missing scientist

Pike anglers are leading the hunt for a missing scientist, it emerged tonight.

Pike Anglers Club insiders admit the search is being hampered by the fact little is known about the mystery boffin - not even their name.

All we can be sure of so far is that reports say they are "a respected fisheries scientist". They are also believed to have a soft spot for using unaerated barrels to retain pike.

When questioned over the use of barrels in the Erne International Pike Fishing Festival, sponsor Fermanagh District Council said: "The issue of barrels has been an organising committee's decision based on consultations with DCAL and other suitably qualified individuals and agencies."

But when the PAC launched a legal bid for further information under the Freedom Of Information Act, asking the council for a copy of any correspondence on the subject, it said:

"There is no correspondence relating to this."

Co-sponsor Waterways Ireland has also said it has not been party to any scientific advice.

"We are clearly dealing with an elusive scientist," a PAC spokesman said.

Documents passed to the club, which apear to be hand-written notes of an organisers' meeting, make no reference to barrels - or scientists, come to that.

Talks between the PAC and organisers of the event broke down in April. The club has warned it will back calls for a boycott of the event if organisers do not return to the negotiating table.

Since then disturbing evidence has emerged that large numbers of pike have died after being retained in barrels during competitions in recent weeks.

The PAC has renewed its call for match organisers to stop using barrels.

Local newspaper the Fermanagh Impartial Reporter picked up the story in this week's edition.

It reported the PAC had “serious welfare concerns both over the use of the barrels and the lack of stewarding at the event, meaning pike would be retained for long periods or transported some distance to be weighed.”

But it added: "The organisers refute the claim, pointing out that the barrel system was adopted after consultation with a respected fisheries scientist."

The paper also stated the match had the support of what it called the Pike Federation of Ireland.

Like the mystery scientist, the PAC has been unable to contact the Pike Federation of Ireland, which does not seem to exist.

But John Chambers, chairman of the Irish Federation of Pike Angling Clubs (IFPAC), posted this clarification on its internet forums:

"One of the organisers Richard Turner phoned me yesterday afternoon to let me know what was printed in the paper and stressed to me that at no time during the interview was it said that I.F.P.A.C. supported the competition.

"The reporter was told that the competition has been supported by many members of clubs affiliated to I.F.P.A.C.. That said the Federation do not oppose the competition. At present the Federation do not oppose the use of barrels when used properly ie to hold pike while being brought to a weigh station.

"As I posted recently on another thread a meeting is being arranged with the P.A.C. to tease out the problem of the speedy weighing of pike on boat competitions."

Tonight a PAC spokesman said: "While we are no nearer to tracking down the elusive scientist, the PAC remains hopeful a meeting might help move things forward - particularly were IFPAC to clarify its stance on an issue which has now the biggest talking point in pike fishing.

"In the meantime we will continue to seek answers and get to the bottom of things in the hope organisers will rethink their ideas when it comes to retaining pike."