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Fishermen and coastal communities vital in war against drug smuggling, say gardaí

Coastal communities and fishermen can play a key role in the war against international drugs smuggling.

Their vigilance and local intelligence has been, and will continue to be crucial in detecting and preventing the importation of illegal drugs, but also in mounting successful drug interdictions, senior garda, Revenue's Customs Service and Irish Naval Service officers told a major seminar in Kinsale, Co Cork today.

Around 150 invited attendees received presentations from gardaí, Customs and the Naval Service in relation to each agency’s role and the relationship that exists between them in the fight against drug smuggling in the maritime environment.

The seminar heard details about risk indicators and previous case studies of successful drug interdictions, where information received from the public was critical in stopping drugs reaching the streets.

"The purpose of the seminar today was to focus the attention of the statutory and voluntary organisations along with farming groups, coastal communities, commercial and fishing industry and all those who use our seas for business and pleasure purposes on how they can assist the statutory agencies in "Keeping Drugs at Bay," Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan said.

"With a multi-disciplinary approach by everybody who attended the seminar, it will mean a formidable force in ensuring that our coastline is not used for drug importation, or if it is that there are many eyes that will report unusual activity along our coastline.

"While Coastal Watch has been in existence over 30 years, it has proven to be a success, however personnel in organisations change, landowners near coastline change and communities change with passage of time, therefore this seminar was about re-energising Coastal Watch in Cork West Garda Division and ensuring that Coastal Watch is a success."

Coastal communities were urged to keep an eye out for risk indicators including:

  • suspicious activity in relation to persons or vehicles
  • ships and yachts sighted in remote areas
  • crew making landings in remote areas
  • unusual objects at sea or ashore
  • ships away from their normal shipping lanes
  • vessels operating at night without lights
  • packages floating in the sea, lying on the beach or hidden close to the shore.

Anyone who sees such unusual activity should contact the following numbers: Customs Drugs Watch - Confidential Freephone number 1800 295 295, Bandon Garda Station 023-8852200, Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111, Emergency Number 112/999, Naval Operations Centre 021 – 4864707.

One of the largest drugs seizures in the history of state was made just off on the south west coast more than a decade ago.

An estimated €440m worth of cocaine was recovered from the sea at Dunlough Bay in July 2007 after a botched smuggling operation resulting in a drugs gang's RIB capsizing, pitching up to 60 bales of cocaine into the sea.