Salmon body delivers

 

The future prospects for wild salmon in Ireland took a leap forward last week following the much-awaited report of the Independent Salmon Group (ISG), which was established in March 2006 by the Government to address the issue of salmon drift-net fishing.

The ISG was set up by the Minister of State for the Marine, John Browne, to primarily evaluate any financial hardship and to consider compensation for those leaving the industry.

The Minister had already undertaken to follow recommendations of the standing scientific committee of the National Salmon Commission to fully align the management of the fishery with its scientific advice. "The Government is committed to accepting the scientific advice for 2007," he said.

The 88-page report calls for a complete cessation of drift-net fishing for salmon at sea, or any other form of harvesting outside rivers and estuaries, from 2007. It also calls for salmon angling to be prohibited on rivers that are not meeting their conservation limits, and catch-and-release is discouraged on rivers running below par, the report contends.

In effect, this equates to an additional 68,000 fish otherwise destined for the drift nets in 2007 that will be available for redistribution to their natal rivers. As a consequence, up to 10 rivers who have not been able to meet their conservation limit will now have a surplus of salmon.

Addressing the financial issue, the ISG recommends a fund of €30 million be established and available to those subject to the closure of their fishery, ie holders of drift-net licences, and also, on a voluntary basis, to those engaged in draft-net, loop-net, bag-net, snap-net and head-weir fishing. In every case, those who avail of the payment should be required to surrender their licence immediately.

The report recommends a community support scheme of €5 million to develop additional economic opportunities in areas affected by closure of the drift-net fishery and where its withdrawal clearly impacts on their economic and social fabric, for example in the Gaeltacht areas.

It also refers to the European Commission viewpoint, which is that by allowing drift netting to continue in 2006, Ireland had disregarded the advice of the Standing Scientific Committee. Last July, the Commission said: "To avoid further infringement cases, Ireland must comply with the Habitats Directive and eschew drift-netting in 2007".

The Progressive Democrats party chairman, Sen John Dardis, an expert on salmon matters, said: "The report makes clear and unequivocal findings on ending drift-netting, while recommending a fair compensation scheme. I urge TDs from all parties to endorse the report. Everyone will have to take some pain so that the long-term future of Irish salmon is guaranteed."

Stop Now, the group formed to campaign for an end to drift-net fishing of salmon, gave a broad welcome to the report. Spokesman Bob Wimms said: "We welcome the ISG's conclusion that a compulsory buy-out of drift-nets is necessary.

It is clear from the report, and other scientific evidence, that anything less will not halt the perilous decline in salmon stocks." Among anglers there is enormous appreciation for the professional manner in which the report was produced. Members of the Independent Salmon Group are: Prof Tom Collins of NUI Maynooth; John Malone, former secretary general of the Department of Agriculture and Food, and Padraic White, former chairman of the Strategy Review Group on Common Fisheries Policy.

• Environment Agency Wales and Johnstown Angling Club, near Wrexham, have joined forces to limit the threat of zebra mussel. This highly invasive species has been found at Monks Pool, Johnstown, and is the first confirmed sighting of the species in north Wales. Zebra mussels grow to 5cm and can cause huge problems by blocking water intakes and displacing native species.

Around the fisheries

Annamoe Trout Fisheries, Co Wicklow: Results of Scierra Winter League (Heat 2): 1, M Francis, Co Wicklow, 4 fish, 170 pts; J Phillpot, Co Wexford, 4f, 161 pts; 3, D McDermot, Dublin, 4f, 155 pts. Next heat scheduled for Saturday, November 4th.

Corkagh Park, Dublin: Barry Mellon caught a fine carp of 5.1kg, and Al Walsh and Harry Kilpatrick accounted for 10 in one day, the best reaching 4.1kg.