‘Ilen’ tracking salmon’s journey from Shannon to Greenland

In the 1970s, numbers returning peaked at 1,800,000, but have now reduced by 70%

The ‘Ilen’ wooden ketch, en route to Greenland from Limerick.

The ‘Ilen’ wooden ketch, en route to Greenland from Limerick.


Ireland’s sole surviving ocean-going wooden sailing ship, the Ilen, rebuilt through a community educational programme in Limerick, set sail from Limerick Docks last week to follow the migratory journey of salmon from the river Shannon to west Greenland.

Entitled Salmon’s Wake, the concept is primarily geared to highlight the decline of salmon during International Year of the Salmon.

The Ilen project operates the wooden sailing craft as a community learning platform from her home port of Limerick. The rebuilding and preparations for sea were completed in June and the crew from all parts of Ireland are looking forward to her longest ocean voyage since 1926.

The voyage follows a creative programme which saw workshops and community days at locations across the city with schools, artists, craft makers and institutions all playing a role in bringing this majestic ship back to sea.

The specially restored 56ft ketch set sail to begin the nine-week voyage across the Atlantic to Greenland where it will be gifted as part of an international cultural exchange with other community groups and schools.

Atlantic salmon populations are widely distributed throughout Ireland with more than 140 systems designated as salmon rivers. While in the 1970s, the numbers returning peaked at 1,800,000, numbers returning in recent decades have reduced by 70 per cent.

Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Company, said: “Throughout this journey, participants have shared and learned skills through the build which will remain with them for a lifetime. It is a symbol of what can be achieved when people work together and it is fitting therefore that our Salmon Wake journey is highlighting the decline in salmon populations.”

The ship’s captain will provide regular updates as it follows the route of salmon migration to West Greenland as a guest blogger to www.fishinginireland.info. For more information about the project, visit www.ilen.ie.

Following a report last Monday from Waterways Ireland of a fish kill on the Royal Canal in Kilcock, Co Kildare, an investigation commenced immediately by Inland Fisheries Ireland. The investigation, although still under way, has identified agricultural discharge to a river Ryewater feeder that enters the canal at Kilcock. Approximately 300 fish have been killed with several species affected including roach, rudd, bream and pike. 

Gorgeous George, tied by Jimmy Tyrrell (irishflycraft@gmail.com).

A fresh appeal has been issued to farmers to remain vigilant during the summer months when harvesting silage and spreading slurry. Silage effluent is a significant pollutant and if allowed to enter a watercourse can lead to fish death and habitat degradation.  The Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board has asked the developers behind the Shot Head salmon farm in Bantry Bay to undertake further appropriate assessments as required by EU habitats law to ensure endangered birds are not put at risk.

These assessments are to be completed by September 23rd, 2019, meaning any decision on the development of the salmon farm will be delayed, to no later than March 31st, 2020. Alec O’Donovan, secretary of Save Bantry Bay, said: “We are experiencing a mass extinction of wild salmon and our seas are in crisis. Yet we ignore all the warning signs in favour of continuing profit maximising developments rather than the more sustainable alternatives.

Land based salmon farming technology is coming along rapidly and offers an economically viable alternative which puts no species at risk. It is time for Ireland to take the plunge and become a leader in sustainable management of its marine resources.”

For further details, contact: Alec O’Donovan (087) 794 9227/027 50508.

Ken Whelan and Jason O’Riordan will host a weekend course on bass fishing in Dungarvan, Co Waterford on July 20th/21st, 2019. The course will include seabass behaviour, tackle, lures, tactics and locations. The fee is €150. As places are limited it is advisable to book now. Contact ken@kenwhelan.info or +353 86 783 5900.

The sixth Cast a Line for Autism wetfly/dapping competition in aid of Irish Guide Dogs will be held on Saturday, July 27th, 2019. Choose your own fishing partner and lake of your choice, either Corrib or Mask. Note: anglers must organise their own boats.

Registration begins at 9am until 10.30am at Lydons Lodge Hotel, Cong, with fishing from 11am to 6pm. Entry fee is €50 per angler. Each angler must weigh in their own fish at Lydons before 7pm. Lots of fantastic prizes to be won and finger food is available at weigh-in.

Further details from Dorrie Gibbons at 087-938 3185.


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