The salmon season opened on many rivers yesterday. Older anglers hardy enough — and still romantic enough — to brave the February cold do not even have to look back to their father’s time to remember an abundance seemingly gone forever. Salmon populations have collapsed within living memory. A February salmon, once commonplace, is a
novelty. Habitat destruction, growing populations of river avian and mammal predators, fish farming and climate change have all contributed. Human impact is the greatest issue. Poaching continues on any river with a reasonable population. A Kinsale restaurant owner was, ironically, convicted and fined yesterday after six untagged, wild salmon were found in a freezer. The fish were net marked despite drift netting being banned in 2006.
Unfortunately, there is a belief that widespread illegal salmon netting continues. Today, around half of our salmon rivers — 73 — are closed because of a shortage of fish so this unsustainable exploitation goes far beyond harmless Flurry Knox roguery. Until we recognise salmon as a precious but diminishing resource the future of the species remains in jeopardy. As ever, education is the key to an essential mind shift and the programme launched by the Environmental Protection Agency so students better understand the world around them is a perfect example of what needs to be done.
In the meantime, wild salmon should not be on the menu.