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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


11th April 2006 Irish Government have badly let us down. It should have happened immediately.

Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now welcomes the Government's reaffirmation of its commitment to manage salmon stocks in accordance with scientific advice from 2007. The clear, logical outcome of this commitment is that mixed stock fishing for salmon will end with the 2006 season. This means that all drift netting and some draft netting will cease for good.

In the various statements issued on 24 March the Government commits itself to “fully align with the scientific advice from the Standing Scientific Committee of the National Salmon Commission in 2007”. The Government acknowledges that “if the scientific advice is followed and the precautionary approach fully implemented, then it will have serious implications for drift net fishing”. The Government have set up a three person Expert Working Group on Salmon the purpose of which is to “make recommendations on the options available to address any financial hardship arising for individuals involved in commercial salmon fishing from full compliance with the scientific advice by 2007”.

Given the depressing evidence from the Standing Scientific Committee of a continuing sharp decline in salmon numbers, it is regrettable that the scientific advice is not being followed this year. While welcoming the adoption of a much reduced quota for 2006 catches Stop Now is disappointed that mixed stock fishing will again take place this year and that it will continue to have a major negative impact on endangered rivers. It will postpone for yet another year the rebuilding process for vulnerable stocks.

It is regrettable also that in the interests of clarity and certainty, the Government did not see fit to make an unambiguous statement about the consequences of the decisions they have made. As a result a degree of confusion has been sown among all those with an interest in salmon stocks – anglers, angling clubs, fishery owners, tourist interests and the commercial sector. Among anglers, the seriousness of the Government's intent is not enhanced by the adoption of petty measures such as the imposition of an annual ten fish limit on angler catches – a limitation which will save no more than about 1,500 salmon nationally in a year in which the drift nets will be allowed to continue to catch 70,000 to 80,000 fish.

The early announcement of a fair scheme of compensation for those who will be required to exit the commercial sector is critical and it is important that the report of the Expert Working Group is delivered no later than the deadline set for it by the Government, end of August 2006. Equity demands that commercial operators be compensated for foregoing the catching of salmon. There is also a practical point that without compensation there is every chance that drift netting will continue illegally. Anglers, angling associations and fishery owners have made clear on many occasions their willingness to contribute appropriately to the cost of any compensation package and no doubt their representative organisations will make proposals to the Expert Working Group in this regard.

The ending of drift netting is an essential but on its own not a sufficient basis for rebuilding salmon stocks and it is important that the Government address as quickly as possible a number of key issues. Particularly urgent is the need to augment protection services both at sea and on land – to ensure that fishing at sea does not continue illegally and that there is not over exploitation in the estuaries, rivers and lakes. In addition, the lack of a single, national policy on the management of our salmon stocks must be addressed with a transition as quickly as possible to single stock management on a river by river basis.

It is important that all those concerned with salmon conservation remain vigilant in monitoring progress on the Government's commitments. Drift nets have not yet been removed and, although the decisions announced on this occasion appear to be firmer than heretofore, historically Government follow through on salmon management undertakings has been, to put it mildly, poor”.


Martin James Fishing