Saving Ireland’s Salmon: The SALSEA project


It was reported that Dr Ken Whelan( head of The Marine Institute Salmon Research, Newport), stated the main reason, for reduced salmon catches was salmon not surviving at sea.


Research in the form of the SALSEA PROJECT organised by NASCO( North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation) is attempting to understand the reason for disappearing salmon. There are many possible explanations including  altered currents, starvation due to lack of food chain nutrients, timing of migrations, overfishing of prey, altering ecology patterns, young salmon ( post smolts) caught as by catch and targeted over fishing in the ocean and coasts.

Conservation Limits

What ever the reason, and regardless of any political manoeuvring it is vital that sufficient salmon are given the opportunity to breed in Ireland’s rivers to ensure future abundance. Conservation limits have been identified for all rivers in Ireland and in addition to the drift net ban many rivers are now closed to salmon angling in 2007 and for the foreseeable future.  

Natural selection

Through out history nature has provided an excellent mechanism for biological diversity and abundance. Natural selection will eventually produce fish suited to the prevailing ecological conditions, provided there are enough of them left and their habitats are looked after. The drift net ban, designed to prevent catching of fish form unknown origin, aims to enable  better understanding of the dynamics between individual rivers, migration of fish form the sea to their home rivers and perhaps more importantly from home river to ocean. The value of the natural asset that is Ireland’s salmon needs to be reflected in the national desire to protect and enhance natural salmon abundance. 

Who can safely Harvest?

Whilst arguments rage about who can fish for and harvest salmon there is a need for vested interests to invest in their future by doing what they can to enhance stocks to sustaianable levels in Ireland’s rivers. Many nets men recognise the need for spawning recruitment and anti poaching measures to maintain breeding stocks and should be encouraged to support a campaign to ensure the recruitment of wild smolts is optimised.

When all rivers have abundant surpluses appropriate exploitation can be considered.   

What more can Netsmen and anglers do to achieve abundance for Wild Atlantic salmon in Ireland ?

The future for salmon in Ireland would be more certain if the recommendations in the letter by James Galvin a netsman from Co.Cork were implemented. ( March issue)

Care of Spawning grounds, protection of river stocks from poaching and general habitat maintenance are identified as key areas requiring development. Fishermen and anglers have a responsibility to fully understand the bigger picture and their own individual position within it. With freedom to fish comes responsibility to protect and enhance the natural asset that is Ireland’s salmon. Many rivers in Ireland require much work to ensure runs are maintained and improved. What could be achieved if big rivers such as the Lennon, Suir, Blackwater, Nore, Boyne Barrow, Slaney, Corrib, Shannon, Liffey, Leannan and Laune  to name a few produced as many salmon as say the Moy?

Re stocking where appropriate, ranching, encouraging natural spawning, developing habitat, all seed future salmon runs and add value to the natural living asset of salmon habitat. Those who wish to fish for salmon in the future need to demonstrate a desire, and ability to increase salmon stocks. Vested interests can choose to drive investment to enhance future value by taking action to ensure sustainability.

Therefore anglers and nets men both need to protect and enhance their future natural resources. Anglers and fisheries managers have had some good success in developing rivers to produce improved salmon runs. Many rivers require much more work. Nets men benefit form the work of anglers since the habitat works led by anglers ultimately lead to more salmon. Nets men who whish to continue to fish for wild Atlantic salmon should become involved to protect their future by doing what they can to enhance habitats and facilitate better future stocks. Since salmon are a national asset in Ireland policy makers and politicians need to support sensible plans led by those who know and care about the future for wild Atlantic salmon. The key winners would be the salmon themselves, those who plan to fish for abundant salmon stocks of the future in a sustainable way and a great natural heritage of Ireland.

It is encouraging to hear positive contributions from the netting fraternity on ways to increase salmon abundance. What more can be done?

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

19 Swanston Gardens


EH10 7DJ

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