Deputy Wallace tackles Minister over sinking Slaney salmon stocks
Deputy Mick Wallace has again highlighted the deteriorating levels of salmon stocks in the River Slaney telling Minister Sean Kyne that Inland Fisheries Ireland spend most of their energies trying to protect fish from fishermen, rather than dealing with the root cause of declining stocks.
Speaking in the Dáil during the Inland Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017, the Wexford Deputy provided a number of examples as to why salmon stocks were in decline, none of which he said were being addressed by the authority set up to safeguard the fish in the first place.
'The most serious issue facing Inland Fisheries Ireland is not whether it has the explicit power to prosecute offences under the Fisheries Acts - it is the declining fish stocks in our rivers. It is all well and good to amend the legislation to beef up powers to prosecute, but what difference will it make when there are no fish left in our rivers to protect?' he said.
'Although Inland Fisheries Ireland seems to spend much of its energies trying to protect fish from fishermen, I suggest that the fish are not being protected and the stocks are not being replenished.
'The conservation limit for salmon is not being met on the River Slaney, like many rivers across the country, and has not been met for many years. While illegal fishing and poaching may well be a factor in declining fish stocks, it is no more than a tiny factor.
'Heavy sea lice infestation from salmon farming has resulted in additional mortality in migratory North Atlantic salmon. What is being done about that? Who is being prosecuted?,' asked the Wexford deputy.
He said said all anglers on the River Slaney are aware that salmon get trapped on a daily basis at a privately owned tailrace at Clohamon outside Enniscorthy.
'Inland Fisheries Ireland has undertaken just two major inspections at the tailrace since 2007. The most recent inspection, which was undertaken in July 2016, resulted in Inland Fisheries Ireland removing approximately 2,000 sea trout and 200 adult salmon.
'The survival rate of the relocated fish was negligible. When a similar inspection was undertaken by Inland Fisheries Ireland in August 2013, some 450 sea trout and 120 salmon were removed.
'It is pathetic that there have been just two inspections of this very obvious and consistent problem over a ten-year period, especially when the river is not meeting salmon conservation limits.'
'Meanwhile, the fishermen are losing out. Over a decade ago, all 75 salmon draft-net fishing licences were suspended downriver on the River Slaney.
'The talk at that time was that draft-net fishing might return after two or three years when the salmon stocks had been given time to recover. At the time, the idea was that by suspending the licences more salmon would be able to make it upriver to be able to spawn. Ten years on, not only have things not improved - they have worsened.
'Things got even worse in January of this year when rod fishing licences were suspended, and not for the first time, because of diminishing stocks. As a result, rod fishermen, the presence of whom would be a deterrent to poachers, are not allowed to catch and release salmon. We have been told that the standing scientific committee on salmon which surveys the River Slaney on a continuous basis has continued to arrive at the conclusion that salmon stocks in the river are far below what they should be.
The second group to be penalised on the River Slaney were the anglers further upstream. Late last year, in a further knee-jerk reaction to dwindling salmon and eel numbers, the Minister banned anglers from catching salmon on the River Slaney in 2017.
'Over 100 objections were submitted to the Minister at the time. He might tell us if he responded to any of them. If the Minister had read any of the letters, he would have seen that the objectors had valid concerns, not least in respect of the 200 salmon and 2,000 sea trout that were pulled out of the Clohamon tailrace in August 2016,' said Deputy Wallace.