Saving Our Irish salmon

Saving our Irish Salmon

 In defence of the compulsory ban on drift net fishing as reported in the December edition of The Skipper Noel Dempsey Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural resources said

“the current imperative must be to maintain stocks above conservation limits”.

It will be obvious to those who fish responsibly with an eye to the future, that conservation limits are necessary for surplus abundance. Insufficient reproductive capacity can only lead to diminishing returns and an unsustainable fishing stock. Fishermen well know that stocks need to be protected and can be devastated by over fishing.

It is reported that to offset hardship, a 25 Million Euro fund will give each fisherman (or license holder) a payment equal to Six times their average annual catch over the period 2001 – 2005 in addition to x6 the current license fee. The state is therefore paying to achieve a goal that it considers to be in line with the greater good. That may seem fair to some and unfair to others. For example a Salmon is much more valuable to a subsistence fisherman than its raw commercial value. It is greater than a commodity. Time, energy, effort, dedication are expended to produce an invaluable harvest that provides food and sustenance and which adds so much to the local community.

The Government, in buying out drift net licenses, will become responsible to ensure the future value of Wild Atlantic Salmon is increased. The Government will be responsible to improve and enhance the status of Atlantic salmon in Ireland. In 10 – 20 years from now will the salmon returning to Ireland will be more abundant a consequence? The Government needs to be sure that salmon will be nurtured back to full health. At some point in the future Salmon rivers will be well managed to produce great runs, and there will be a healthy self sustaining stock of salmon that will be harvested in an optimally sustainable way. I guess then there would be an opportunity to repurchase responsibly managed licenses from the state.  

Maire Keane O’Donnell suggests that the crux of the debate is to know how many salmon are required in a particular river system to ensure a healthy self sustaining population with a surplus.  Fish counters would certainly provide useful information and require funding and a commitment to install. Anglers also have a very important role to play by providing information via their clubs and catch returns and have a responsibility to ensure the fish in their rivers are well managed and protected. The Government ultimately now has a big responsibility to ensure that Ireland’s salmon are still around in years to come and implement the policies needed to rebuild a great resource that was once taken for granted. Habitat improvements, tackling pollution, fisheries protection, access to spawning and nursery areas, and stewardship are required which apparently the main body of drift net fishermen were not interested in.  To restore Ireland’s salmon population is a great national goal and adds value to Ireland’s uniqueness in the brave new world of environmental awareness. We all have the opportunity to do our bit by thinking globally and acting locally. Salmon are an interdependent species. Ireland is not the only country with a vested interest in salmon born in Irish rivers. For example fishing practices in Greenland, Iceland, Faeroes, in Irish coasts or in our home rivers will affect the status of Irish Salmon. International bodies like NASCO, NASF represent an opportunity to find a common global purpose in an Irish context. They have negotiated for reduced fishing in these far off countries around the North Atlantic. There are real opportunities to work to a North Atlantic agenda in an Irish context. The newly established Marine Institute in Galway and similar organisations need to grasp the opportunity to get involved with the global imperatives and seek partnerships and opportunities for research and sustainable fishing practices.

There will be many challenges ahead but it is hoped that common sense and cooperation between fishermen, anglers, scientists and policy makers will prevail to ensure the survival of our great Atlantic Salmon. If we can collectively achieve future abundance for Wild Atlantic salmon then perhaps we will have been inspired by the fish of knowledge. I hope that salmon are still a highly valued resource and abundant in the years and centuries to come.

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

Natural Living Assets

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