Abundance, Overabundance, and Socio Economic Gain? What would sustainability look like?
It was interesting to read an article in the Irish Times Saturday 11th August, which quoted an interview with Mary Coughlan by The Irish Skipper magazine illustrating that there was no clarity about a way forward for the newly merged agriculture fisheries and food departments. It was expressed in the same article that the drift net ban is merely a bone of contention and that Mary Coughlin the new minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Food is unable to take responsibility for the fisheries portfolio until a relevant government order is signed. Much more recognition and urgency needs to be given to Irish salmon not only as an important future food resource but to the socio economic value of fishing for Wild Atlantic Salmon whether by rod and line or traditional netting.
Many readers, fishermen, anglers, and the public at large will agree that the sustainability of salmon in Ireland is too important culturally to be neglected while waiting for political leadership.
What would sustainability of Atlantic Salmon look like?
Rivers would be full of fish, and they would be protected, appreciated and valued for their future value to sustain a harvestable surplus. They would be valued for the amenity they offer including angling, wildlife viewing and as a significant cog in the ecology of pristine clean rivers. Salmon would be valued as an indicator species for clean healthy streams, rivers and estuaries and would provide a focus for wider sustainability issues. The local community would have a strong vested interest to protect future value and ensure stocks are looked after.
Anglers are responsible for the health of their own sport and would practice catch and release only taking what fish they could fairly use in sharing with family and friends. Angling clubs would be friendly supportive associations with their own sense of etiquette and community spirit. Anglers contribute significantly to the socio economic fabric of the local community contribute by buying their license, permit and holiday requirements locally (my License cost 103 euros and this year I bought a season permit 70 euros). Angling success is not guaranteed with fish in the river but the value of salmon in a healthy river environment facilitates investment that builds a better future. Salmon fishing is more than the economic return from the catch but a way of life and behaving that supports a basic desire to be a hunter gatherer.
Who would not be inspired by the sight of an Atlantic salmon forging majestically upstream on its own mission to secure sustainability for its own kind. There are many salmon falls in Ireland that could provide a tourist facility to view leaping salmon if they were abundant.
There would be a strong community ethos that understood the responsibility of each individual to protect salmon stocks and support the needs of the salmon in the river. Only any healthy surplus would be harvested with an abundant future in mind.
Stock Surplus and Traditional Netting
A healthy surplus stock would exist to sustain a healthy productive system that met the needs of the local community in a sustainable way. Overabundance would be encouraged and a long term plan to only exploit sustainably and in a precautionary way would prevail. The socio economic consequences and impact on future abundance would be considered in any harvesting strategies.
Socio Economic Value
The stock of fish in the river would be managed for the greatest socio economic gain and form a critical component of the social fabric of the community and contribute significantly to the local culture and infra structure.
The community would value the resource from the local river and take action that nurtures the natural environment so supportive of life and socio economic value.
Ireland has a responsibility to protect its greatest Natural Living Asset, her salmon and would have land, coastal, and agricultural systems to protect stocks.
Individuals with an interest for the future of salmon would have a means to assert their desire and plans for a sustainable abundant future.
Salmon are emotive in Ireland. Ask anyone who has fishes for salmon by rod as an angler or by net traditionally at sea or has simply seen salmon leaping a waterfall. Salmon have been under threat for many years now and there continues to be excellent progress to turn the threat around. Much more needs to be done though and there is long way to go to achieve abundant sustainability. Fair compensation to netsmen, habitat improvements, reducing pollution threats, developing an anti poaching mentality and developing an exploitation strategy that facilitates greater abundance all have a contribution to make.
Any particular salmon river is unique and will have its own level of abundance or overabundance to propagate the future. Generally that would mean the rivers being full of prime salmon to ensure a healthy surplus.
It is a great thing when a river is full of fish to inspire hope fort he future. It is a sad day when rivers are compromised and unable to support salmon for whatever reason. Over exploitation, poaching, pollution, water abstraction, habitat destruction, disease, infestations by sea lice from fish farms and disappearing smolts at sea all conspire to make the sustainability of Atlantic Salmon a constant challenge. Those of us interested enough to work for more salmon abundance and overabundance do so recognising the invisible and silent work undertaken by many operating in a very difficult arena which goes right to the heart of human behaviour.
Will we just stand back and watch it happen. Giving up is not an option. Therefore I hope that all those truly interested in maintaining and developing Atlantic Salmon in Ireland to do what they can to ensure an abundant healthy future for the salmon and all the great gifts provided by them.
We are investing in a sustainable future for ourselves our children and grandchildren but need your support. If you have any comments or would like to make contact please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you.
10 Belgravia Park