Ban on type of net cannot be enforced - Gilmore


THE ban on monofilament net for salmon has cost the State some £100 million and is unenforceable, the Minister of State for the Marine has said.

Legalisation of its use is "not a capitulation to lawlessness", Mr Eamon Gilmore argued, defending his decision to lift the ban on the netting from next year.

In a wide ranging statement to the Central Fisheries Board outlining his position on the issue, he expressed "surprise" that criticisms of his task force report on salmon have focused exclusively on the monofilament recommendation, and that these critics have ignored other recommendations aimed at restricting the salmon driftnet fishery.

These other measures include postponing the opening of the driftnetting season from as early as February 15th in some districts to June 1st in all districts; limiting the fishery to four days a week instead of five; restricting driftnetting to daylight only; and banning it outside the six mile limit.

The new regime will be simpler for the regional fisheries boards to enforce and will dramatically improve exploitation, Mr Gilmore told the board at a function in Limerick. While aware of the reservations expressed about the task force report in certain quarters, the Minister said he was convinced that implementation should go ahead next year, but with some amendments.

For instance, the new regulations on daylight hours only will not be applied to estuarial draftnets, or to the snap net sectors. The proposed ban on the sale of rod caught fish, as an alternative to imposing quotas and tagging on the recreational fishery, will not be implemented at this stage.

The Minister of State said he had already signed the ministerial order reducing next year's maximum allocated level of driftnet licences from 847 to 773.

The Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers (FISSTA), said it broadly supported the Minister's initiative on salmon, which it described as "very courageous".

Mr Richard Behal, FISSTA general treasurer and delegate to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), said the association still reserved its position on retaining the driftnet ban and on use of other types of netting for salmon. However, it was in favour of many of the other recommendations and welcomed the appointment of a Naval Service officer, as a protection co ordinator with the Central Fisheries.

Mr Frank Coyle of the Irish Fishermen's Organisation (IFO) also said it broadly favoured the initiative, particularly the recognition that legal driftnetting was not the only, and might not even be the main, cause of the perceived decline in salmon stocks. This was of "real assistance" to coastal communities.