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Government fails to act over rapidly disappearing salmon stocks

Irish Politics Website

21st April 2004

Speaking yesterday, Tuesday 20th April 2004, at 'Saving the Atlantic Wild Salmon' a special public meeting hosted by the Green Party at the Spring Hill Court Hotel in Kilkenny, Cllr. Mary White, Green Party Deputy Leader and European candidate for the East, highlighted the danger of extinction facing the salmon stocks in the prime salmon rivers in the South and East of the country.

Councillor White said today that, "Poor inland management of rivers, pollution of our waters and the continuation of drift netting at sea have all contributed over the years to the decline of salmon stock - which now stands at an all time low. Remedial measures need to be taken immediately to cease drift netting for salmon and to support international best practice for their protection."

"It is a poor reflection on the Irish Government that it continues to bow to the small vocal minority of the interceptory drift net sector while ignoring the cost to salmon stocks on a worldwide level. Ireland is now out of step with most other countries - Canada, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland and Scotland have all joined the North Atlantic Salmon Fund to cease drift netting."

"I refuse to be a passive witness to the extinction of such an important species as the wild salmon in my constituency. I'm calling on the Government to protect the salmon from further exploitation at sea and to add its voice to the growing demand that the fish be protected for its future survival."

"We need proper inshore management of rivers, better resources for fishery boards and an end to tokenism from successive governments with regard to salmon stocks. As Ireland now holds the EU Presidency, it would be a timely announcement to protect a species so threatened by over-fishing," concluded Councillor Mary White.

Green Party Fisheries spokesperson, Eamon Ryan TD, added, "We are the last country on either side of the Atlantic to allow off-shore salmon drift netting.

This is a most urgent problem that needs to be addressed now. The Green Party favours a buyout of commercial licences. At the very least, we should be introducing a single stock management system where commercial fishing for salmon is restricted to individual bays or estuaries rather than the open sea. The single stock management system is based on the counting of the number of salmon in each river system and then setting individual commercial quotas for the related bay or estuary to a level which ensures sufficient numbers can make it up river to spawn."

"Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resource in February of this year, officials from the department agreed that the introduction of such single stock management systems was desirable. They cited the management of the River Foyle in Derry as an example of best practice.

However, the officials admitted that they had neither the Budget nor the timetable to introduce such a system on Ireland's main salmon rivers."

"Across the world, people concerned about the survival of the Atlantic Salmon look on in amazement at the indifference of the Irish Government to the survival of this unique species. As each year of government inactivity passes we will see the extinction of a unique genetic fingerprint from one small river system after another. The loss of such creatures with their remarkable migratory pattern will diminish all our lives," concluded Deputy Ryan.

Noel Carr, Vice-Chairman of FISSTA, the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers, said today that, "Dermot Ahern has a golden opportunity with the Presidency of the EU to end driftnetting for wild Atlantic salmon. The Minister last week secured an agreement to ban driftnets in some EU waters to save the lives of dolphins, thereby acknowledging that driftnets can be lethal killers.

However this ban did not extend to Ireland and therefore this season over 200,000 wild Atlantic salmon will be killed by Irish drift nets. Nearly 90% of these will be killed by the same type of driftnets the Minister acknowledges to be a lethal killer of the dolphin and porpoise species.

The banning of driftnets in the Baltic Sea is a welcome start, but does not save one wild Atlantic salmon."