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Environment Agency data confirms massive Irish impact on UK Salmon stocks!

Irish Drift Nets Are Heaviest Exploiters of English and Welsh Salmon
The drift net fishery operating off the Republic of Ireland’s coast is impacting English and Welsh salmon stocks by up to 16% of individual river populations.
In most rivers, the fishery is the heaviest exploiter of salmon, and certainly more so than local anglers, many of whom now return all the fish they catch in the interests of conservation.

This data was published last week by the Environment Agency (EA), and is a summary of the joint report on behalf of the Irish Marine Institute and CEFAS. It showed that southern chalkstreams, including the Avon, Itchen and Test, were the worst affected. This is especially ironic, as there is now a total catch and release policy for both anglers and (Avon) netsmen on these rivers.

Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now Campaign Tour
The EA statement was published in time to coincide with a series of talks by Niall Greene, Chairman of the Irish Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now campaign, given in southern and south west England and Wales to inform fishery owners, managers and anglers as to the present situation in Ireland, and what can be done to help influence the closure of the fishery. Some 300 people attended the four meetings, all sponsored by the Salmon & Trout Association and hosted by local fisheries/angling associations (see below), where Niall Greene was given enthusiastic support for his efforts.

Irish Minister Ignores His Own Scientists
Niall Greene told how the Irish Minister for the Marine had disregarded scientific advice as to the size of commercial quota to adopt for the fishery in 2005, which is likely to be 140,000 salmon for the drift nets as opposed to the 97,000 recommended by his own scientists. This was despite repeated assurances in recent years by various Ministers of the Marine to abide by scientific advice in 2005 and subsequent years.

Fair Compensation For Fishery Closure
Niall Greene went on to describe possible ways of bringing about a closure agreement with the drift net fishermen, which would start on a voluntary basis and would provide for fair compensation being paid to them to exit the industry. He also suggested ways in which UK fishery interests and anglers could support the campaign. As he returned to Ireland, Niall Greene Commented,

“The meetings in England and Wales were a strong affirmation of how anglers in different jurisdictions can stand together for salmon conservation. The drift net fishery substantially negates the efforts of anglers and their associations, of fishery owners and managers and of governmental organisations throughout Ireland and the UK to increase the number of fish returning to the rivers to reproduce. I was impressed that English and Welsh anglers are willing to campaign with us on this issue and also by the fact that we share a belief that the drift net fishermen deserve to be fairly treated in respect of the incomes they will have to forego as we bring this unsustainable practice to an end.”

International pressure is being brought to bear on the Irish Government from many different areas, including complaints by several English, Welsh and Irish rivers that the drift net fishery is illegally jeopardising their status as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the European Habitats Directive. This follows an initiative undertaken by the Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust (whose Chairman, Brian Marshall, gave a paper at the Southern English meeting in Salisbury on Saturday evening).

Salmon & Trout Association
The Salmon & Trout Association has fully supported the campaign against the Irish nets by lobbying UK and European Governments as to the woeful management of salmon stocks undertaken by the Irish Government, which is threatening the conservation, social and economic status of wild Atlantic salmon throughout the Ireland, the UK and European countries. Director, Paul Knight, commented:
“The EA has now firmly stated its position with regard to the impact of the Irish drift net fishery on English and Welsh rivers. Following on from Niall Greene’s highly successful tour, S&TA will lobby with even greater conviction and background data to support the Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now campaign in bringing about a closure of the Irish fishery that is fair to all involved. Once these salmon are free to return to their natal rivers, the compound effect from a few years of extra fish in spawning streams will produce a huge benefit for local salmon populations.”

Martin James Fishing