Donegal Democrat 9th August 2007
Government Ignoring Erne Fishermen
It was reported that Councillor Barry O’Neil had expressed disappointment regarding the treatment of nets men on the Erne estuary. Reference was made to the Supreme Court decision in 1933 granting Kildoney fishermen the right to net salmon and sea trout in the estuary. It has been recommended that the scheme to compensate fishermen for loss of earnings should be ignored by the fishermen so that they could retain their rights to fish. If that were to happen it would still be imperative that fishermen fish only extremely conservatively, or not at all, so that salmon numbers can increase over the next five years or so to ensure sustainability.
If nets men are committed to in ensure future sustainability of salmon they would support moves to conserve enhance, restore and manage to salmon resource on the Erne. A future where salmon once again provide significant local socio economic gain requires achievement of the National Irish Salmon Development Plan in line with the aims of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation ( NASCO).
The conservation limit for the Erne system is apparently set at 3000 fish. That 2500 fish have been counted through the pass at Ballyshannon is being used as justification to recommend licensed netting of salmon. 2500 salmon fish counted over the dam at Ballyshannon may indicate that salmon and sea trout are returning home to spawn, but this is below the minimum required level to maintain stocks. 3000 is the calculated minimum in an imperfect science and takes no account of the precautionary principle. Many years of conservation and restoration are required to ensure a sustainable surplus for harvesting. More immediate development challenges include protecting river systems from poaching, pollution and habitat impacts.
The real issue is to ensure that salmon stocks are conserved, enhanced, restored and developed in line with the recommendations from NASCO. Therefore whether fishermen retain their rights to fish or not, the crucial point is that there needs to be and abundance / overabundance of salmon in our rivers to ensure a better future for salmon and salmon fishing by net or rod.
One solution may be to ensure that those genuinely interested in retaining their rights to fish, do so with an abundant future in mind and exercise their choice not to fish for the benefit of the future. They should demonstrate support for their local river initiatives aimed at improving stocks which many angling clubs support and endorse. As for catching only hatchery reared fin clipped fish how could this be implemented without catching the wild stocks that need our greatest protection and care? In the long run with responsible fishing regulations and voluntary restoration of stocks salmon and sustainable socio economic gain will be the real winner, whether for anglers, nets men and local communities.
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