Government plays down reports Corrib fishery to be sold

Local anglers concerned over future of historic Galway salmon run

Anglers pose with a salmon on the banks of the River Corrib in Galway.

Anglers pose with a salmon on the banks of the River Corrib in Galway.

 

Minister of State for Natural Resources Séan Kyne has moved to assuage fears that the Galway salmon fishery on the river Corrib is to be put up for sale.

Local anglers fear that the fishery, once administered by King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth 1st, may be leased or sold and have sought an urgent meeting with Mr Kyne, who is a TD for Galway West.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which runs the fishery on behalf of the State, has denied reports that it has discussed a lease agreement with a private company at a recent board meeting.

It has confirmed that bookings for the 2018 season on the fishery have been suspended, “pending the outcome of a public consultation on its future”.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Kyne said that IFI’s income had dropped as a result of bans on eel fishing and driftnetting for salmon, and a loss of about €5 million annually from these licenses was drawing on the IFI’s reserves.

He said he had approved a recent increase of €1.3 million this year to offset some of that income loss.

“The IFI board was given a number of options to make the fishery cost-neutral, as part of cutting costs nationally, but sale was never contemplated,” he said.

Galway City Salmon Anglers’ Association spokesman Billy Smyth said the fishery was indelibly associated with tourism in the west, and was a valued resource by local anglers.

The fishery, once recorded as belonging to Walter de Burgo in the late 13th century, was held under a British royal patent until it was acquired by the State in 1978.

Spring salmon can be caught from the month of February with best grilse fishing in the months of May and June.

Licensed local anglers can pay €70 for a permit to fish a stretch from the salmon traps to Nimmo’s pier down river, while the peak permit fee for visiting anglers at the weir is €85 for a half day in the summer. Rods below the weir are limited to six at a time, and anglers are often outnumbered by spectators on the Salmon Weir Bridge near Galway Cathedral.

“Salmon is very good there now, but nothing like what it used to be when there were thousands of fish congregating below the weir,”Mr Smyth said. “The local lore was that there were so many salmon you could walk across them.”

IFI said that the fishery operated at a loss, and permit fee increases would be one option explored in the public consultation,which it plans to initiate next month for a four-week period. Permit booking would resume when the consultation was complete, it said.

The IFI said it is “reviewing all its activities in relation to value for money, efficiencies and the best use of resources in line with best management practice”.