Fisheries manager sounds dire warning on dwindling wild salmon stocks
Ireland’s rivers teemed with salmon 30 years ago, but today numbers have declined by about 70 per cent.
“Unless we can implement our conservation programme in the major catchment areas, we could be looking at a situation where we will have little or no salmon left in the wild in Ireland. It would be a terrible loss to the Irish people,” said Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) natural habitat development fisheries manager, Declan Cooke.
Speaking on RTÉ's Ear to the Ground TV programme, he said water pollution was a major problem. Fencing off fields to debar cattle access to rivers would be a great asset, he said, and stressed the importance of trees along banks as an important ingredient to a healthy river.
The programme focused mainly on the River Deel (a catchment of the River Moy) in Crossmolina, Co Mayo, where fisheries officers Eddie Doherty and Michael Wilson engaged in walking a stretch of the river in search of redd beds. After a lengthy troll, they found 14 redds. Last year that number was 28.
In the 1980s and 1990s this river was teeming with salmon; numbers have declined by about 70 per cent. In a startling state of affairs, we heard that in the mid-1970s about 1.7 million salmon returned to Ireland. Today, that figure has reduced to 150,000.
The Technical Expert Group on Salmon (Tegos), in its assessment for 2023, has flagged that just 48 out of 147 salmon rivers can fully open as a sustainable surplus was identified.
It is worth remembering that bylaw No 997 (2022) provides for an annual bag limit of 10 salmon or sea trout (over 40cm) per angler, a season bag limit of three fish from January 1st to May 11th, a daily bag limit of three fish from May 12th to August 31st and a daily bag limit of one fish from September 1st to end of season.
The River Drowes, which flows from Lough Melvin to the sea in Bundoran, is one of Ireland’s premier spring salmon fisheries. One of only a handful of fisheries open for business on January 1st it was, up to the 1990s/2000s, almost guaranteed to catch the first salmon in Ireland on opening day.
Celebrations received huge media coverage. Later, the fish was served up to guests in the Fox’s Lair Restaurant in Bundoran with all proceeds going to charity. (I can verify that - I was there.)
Fast-forward to last year. It was all of 17 days into the season on the Drowes before the first salmon of the year was landed. The honour went to Dublin angler Garrett Byrne with a fish estimated at 12lb, which took a Cone Head Shrimp pattern, before being returned to the water.
At time of writing (January 19th), we still await the first salmon of the year. How times have changed.
Source: The Irish Times
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