All I want to do is Fish

Is Freedom to Fish as a Hunter Gatherers Compatible with a Sustainable Future?

 As an angler I have sympathy for the way Nets Men have been told they cannot fish for salmon in 2007 and beyond and the sense of despair expressed by some. Many anglers would despair if they were told they could not go fishing for salmon. A worse scenario would be that there were none to catch.

Perhaps it is the freedom to satisfy the hunter gatherer instinct that is the real value in salmon fishing!  My 1st experience of being a hunter gatherer involved throwing a worm into a pool on a private stretch of water where fresh summer salmon were shoaling around a pool in huge numbers in the late 60’s. The river was full of fish, and the local estuary nets men weren’t complaining as there were so many fish about that they didn’t command a huge price. I was soon attached to a huge leaping Atlantic salmon that appeared to be bigger than myself and which eventually due to inexperience broke the line.

I was later told that I could not fish there because the fishing was reserved for the special few. Such a rebuff after being hooked appealed to a stubborn desire not to be put off and grew over the years into a real desire to ensure that there will still be fish to fish for in years to come. 

The competitive temptations of monofilament were only beginning then. In those days salmon were able to spawn each year, protected by the undrained upper reaches of the river. Mono filament nets, forestry operations, drainage, dredging and pollution all conspired to destroy salmon abundance. The pressure on stocks increased exponentially year on year. More and more licenses were issued. By the mid 70s there were signs of a beginning crisis. Soon there were practically no salmon at all in many rivers including “my own” local river. Attempts at stocking with imported fry and eggs failed and seemed to reduce stocks even more. A dedicated hatchery was started in about 1994 to breed endogenous local stock there were almost no local fish to be found to seed the hatchery. Eventually after years of huge effort from a dedicated group of anglers there are a few fish running again.

Anglers and nets men need to invest in a future that ensures abundant survival of Atlantic salmon. One definition of sustainable fishing is ensuring that our behaviour today does not reduce the value of tomorrow. The traditional nets men talk of passing on skills and knowledge in pursuit of the salmon of knowledge. Such knowledge could be put to good use to develop future stocks when there is a fair method for allocating compensation.

Nets men refused a license deserve to be compensated for their contributions to future stocks by not fishing and providing salmon for future generations. Efforts to restore salmon stocks need support form all vested interests including nets men and anglers.  

Collectively all us interested the future of this great fish need to work together and be supported in our desire to ensure a better prospects for salmon and salmon fishing in future years. 

The main lesson from the past is the need to take care of nature’s bounty and do whatever it takes to ensure future abundance and sustainability. Once a natural Living resource is destroyed it takes years and years to get it back if at all. A few salmon are now caught on my local river though we are still along way form the great runs that abundantly sustained nets men and anglers. Perhaps we collectively did more harm than we like to recognise to the sustainability of salmon in Ireland?    

Any thing is possible with the right commitment to achieve a deserving goal such as ensuring salmon still provide an abundant natural living resource. Those remaining fish and fishermen are our Natural Living Assets and need to be looked after.

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

19 Swanston Gardens


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