Salmon and Trout Association applauds "brave" decision to close the Irish drift net fishery –

Salmon and Trout Association applauds “brave” decision to close the Irish drift net fishery Published:  02 November, 2006

THE Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) has welcomed the Irish Government’s decision to ratify the Irish Salmon Group’s Report recommendation to end all drift netting for salmon off the Republic of Ireland’s coast from 2007.

For according to the association, this is a major and vital step forward in Atlantic salmon conservation.

S&TA’s director, Paul Knight, says: “The Irish Government, and in particular, Noel Dempsey , the Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources, should be congratulated for tackling a difficult issue with a robust policy decision in favour of salmon conservation, especially that the drift net fishery should close permanently, with a fair compensation package paid to commercial fishermen who will be impacted by the closure.”

Knight continues: “This will benefit not only Irish rivers, but those in England, Wales, Scotland and several other European countries. Irish drift nets stop salmon from returning to rivers in countries with endangered and protected salmon populations. Every wild salmon that is able to survive life at sea and swim back to its home river to spawn is critical for the survival of that river’s unique salmon population.”

The Association says the decision is just reward for the pressure exerted on the Irish Government over many years by NGO groups and individuals, including Niall Green of Stop Drift Nets Now, Brian Marshall of the Wessex Salmon & Rivers Trust, Orri Vigfusson of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, the European Anglers Alliance and the S&TA, who raised support for action and ensured that the issue remained central to agendas within the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) over the past decade.

However, there are potential problems with the implementation of some of the Irish Salmon Group’s secondary recommendations, not least being the suggestion that the sale of rod caught salmon should be permitted. S&TA, many of whose members fish in Ireland and spend significant amounts of money in local community economies, strongly opposes such a recommendation, on the grounds that the point of slaughter will merely be moved from the ocean to the riverbank, thus potentially negating any benefit to conservation of stocks.

S&TA also believes that catch and release of fly-caught fish should be used on Irish rivers as a management tool, allowing the socio economic benefits of angling to continue while, at the same time, allowing the vast majority of salmon to escape to spawn.

The presence of anglers on the riverbank is a deterrent to poaching, and anglers are often the first people to pick up the signs of pollution incidents or any other problems affecting the health of rivers. Income derived from anglers is also a major source of funding in-river management and conservation projects.

“Now, there must be a commitment to fund increased anti-poaching enforcement to ensure that salmon saved from the drift nets do not end up illegally killed and sold.”

“However”, Knight concludes: “The major issue here is that Irish drift netting will be banned, and this is a tremendous and needed boost to European salmon conservation.”