Drift-net ban plan to save salmon Ireland – Drift-net ban proposed to save declining stocks
DRIFT-NET fishing, which has caused a dramatic fall in salmon stocks, should be banned at sea, an Oireachtas committee is to recommend.
The cross-party body, set up to study the controversial practice, will recommend in a report to be published next month that the government buy back licences to use the large nets at sea.
But it will propose that such fishing be allowed at estuaries of rivers where stocks are above conservation limits. The government is under significant pressure to stop drift-net fishing, which threatens salmon stocks in the UK as well as in Ireland. The European Union recently warned the republic that if it did not curb volume fishing off its western coast it would face prosecution. The Oireachtas report is expected to form the basis of government policy on the issue.
A recommendation that angling for salmon in rivers where stocks are below the conservation minimum may also be included, but nevertheless anglers welcomed the thrust of the report. Bobby Wemyss, of the Southeast Salmon Federation, said: “If these reports are true, then it’s extremely positive. We would wholeheartedly welcome any effort to remove the indiscriminate element of commercial fishing and we’d look forward to working closely with draft and snap-net fishermen to ensure that salmon stocks can be rehabilitated.”
A decade ago, 1m salmon returned to Irish shores every year to spawn, but now the number is below 500,000. Global warming has been partly blamed but the primary cause is commercial drift-net fishing, which catches salmon before they have a chance to return to their spawning grounds.
Record salmon runs have been recorded in Norway, Scotland and other European countries following recent drift-net bans.
The report is expected to recommend that commercial fishermen sell their licences or accept compensation for giving up commercial fishing during a five-year review period to study the impact on stocks.
Sources involved in the drafting of the report, which is due to be discussed before a final version is submitted next month, say it will advise the adoption of a principle of singlestock river management, where a river’s stock be counted before fishing is allowed.
Noel O’Flynn, a Fianna Fail TD who is chairman of the committee, last week refused to comment on the content of the draft report and said the government was under no obligation to act on its recommendations.