PDs may break with policy on managing wild salmon


The Progressive Democrats are set to break with Government policy on wild salmon management if they agree a ban on driftnet fishing for salmon in Galway today.

A policy document, prepared by PD senator John Dardis, recommends a driftnetting ban in relation to salmon.

It also calls for the introduction of a "fair and appropriate" compensation package for licence-holders.

This runs contrary to the position taken by the Government as articulated by Minister of State for the Marine Pat "the Cope" Gallagher. Last April he told a joint Oireachtas committee he was "not closed" to the idea of a buyout of driftnet licences.

However, he said no convincing case had been made and no consensus had been reached on balancing the wild salmon resource in favour of tourism.

The proposed PD policy questions Mr Gallagher's strategy of sustaining commercial and recreational wild salmon fisheries through "aligning catches" on scientific advice. It notes that the most recently advised allowable catch was 100,000 fish, and not the 140,000 cited by the Minister.

The document refers to the National Salmon Management Task Force's finding that wild salmon are exposed to some 40 risk factors, including survival on the high seas, climate change, pollution, seals and overfishing. However, it says the "widely held view" is that driftnetting at sea is the main risk.

It notes the steep decline in salmon stocks in recent years and says the balance of national economic interest is "overwhelmingly" with salmon angling, not salmon netting.

It says angling tourism has been contributing €55 million to the economy annually.

However, visitor numbers had dropped considerably, and many Irish and foreign anglers now travelled to Russia, Iceland, Canada, Scotland and South America, as the "product" was better.

Mr Dardis said the cost of a buyout scheme for commercial fishing licences could be a quarter of the €70 million suggested by the Minister.

A spokesman for Mr Gallagher said he was aware of the document, but had no comment to make. He said wild salmon management was due to be discussed in the Dáil next week.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for the Marine reappointed Joey Murrin as chair of the National Salmon Commission last night.