Castlemaine Harbour commercial fishing to be re-opened –

Castlemaine Harbour commercial fishing to be re-opened Published:  20 May, 2011

The Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr Pat Rabbitte T.D., has announced plans to re-open licensed commercial fishing in Castlemaine Harbour, following receipt of the results of the pilot fishery undertaken there in 2010.

The Minister, in announcing the statutory 30-day public consultation on the required amendment to the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme for 2011 to provide for the opening of the fishery, highlighted that he has asked IFI to ensure full enforcement of the associated salmon conservation bye-laws and regulations and also to ensure adherence to the quota set for the commercial fishery in the harbour.

The Minister added: “I am satisfied, based on scientific and fishery management advice from IFI and my own Department, that it is safe to reopen this fishery under closely controlled conditions. The trial fishing conducted in the Harbour last year establishes that this can be done without impinging on threatened stocks. The consultation period will give those who disagree with that conclusion to put forward their views and I will pay close attention to what they say before reaching a final conclusion on the matter.

“The limitations on the extent of the fishery set out in the draft are essential to ensuring that this fishery is conducted only on stocks meeting their conservation limits. In any decision about opening the fishery in subsequent years, I will take account of the extent to which these limitations have been respected by licensees in 2011.”

Last year a pilot fishery was permitted to take place inside Castlemaine Harbour under the supervision of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI). The Department requested advice from IFI on how a commercial fishery could be operated on salmon stocks in the Castlemaine Harbour Special Area of Conservation in a sustainable manner, maximizing the opportunities for commercial fishing while ensuring that stocks are not over-exploited.

As part of the pilot, a comprehensive monitoring programme ran for the duration of the salmon fishing season and covered all areas of the harbour. The pilot aimed to investigate whether stock proportions vary over the fishing season and also to determine if they vary between different areas of the fishery. Additionally genetic samples were taken from salmon caught during the pilot fishery and were analysed by UCC to identify the proportion of salmon from the rivers entering the Castlemaine Harbour area and, if present, rivers from outside this area.

The result of the pilot, the report by IFI to the Minister, indicates that a commercial fishery should be permitted in Castlemaine Harbour in 2011, inside the rivers Laune, Maine and Caragh and within specified areas in Castlemaine Harbour.