The Shannon, Mulcair and District Anglers are calling on the ESB to take back responsibility for policing salmon fishing in their river systems. Protection duties have been in the hands of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) since 2007.
In that time, the angler groups say the region has lost its status as a prime attraction for anglers.
“The ESB as the Shannon and Mulcair fishery owners have full responsibility for protecting the native salmon stocks, especially at spawning time,” said Nevill Atkinson of the Mulcair anglers’ group.
“We have pleaded with the ESB to moor a patrol boat near Ardnacrusha, but they refused. Our anglers’ club has spent €8,000 on experienced water keepers over the past two years to help protect our salmon, we can’t afford to do it this year.”
The anglers have urged the ESB not to renew IFI’s contract. The group wants the ESB to introduce a more effective and accountable system to protect salmon in their local river system.
“We want the ESB to employ designated professional personnel, dedicated to both the lower Shannon and the Mulcair — individuals who are passionate about their duties, care and know about salmon conservation,” stated Mr Atkinson.
“Individuals who will seek the assistance of the gardaí when necessary and work alongside the angling community, those in angling tourism and other interested parties.
“Without proper protection our native salmon will no longer exist in the Shannon and Mulcair rivers resulting in a serious blow to angling, tourism and the rural community.”
The ESB said it had formed a partnership group to address the anglers’ concerns, consisting of ESB, IFI, Mulcair Angling Club and Limerick & District Angling Club. The group meets before and after the season.
“ESB has a unit devoted to fisheries management and conservation, who undertake their role in a very serious manner,” said the ESB, in a written reply.
“The conservation of fish stocks is an absolute priority and if the Mulkear [sic] salmon stocks continue to decline then the recreational fishery will be closed.”
ESB also said the National Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon oversees the conservation of stocks, adding that the recreational rod catch quota for the Mulcair river has been set for the 2014 season and this is being managed by IFI.
“ESB has contracted IFI to carry out protection duties. They are best placed to provide this service, being the state agency charged with the protection of inland fisheries,” the ESB said. “The ESB also provides a boat, moored at Limerick Marina, for protection work on the tailrace. This boat is used by both the IFI and the Gardaí. ESB Fisheries Conservation staff do appreciate the help, expertise and resources of the local Guards; interaction between the two is regular.”
The ESB said it conducts regular reviews of protection duties with IFI, noting that IFI has employed extra staff to address seasonal demands, and uses both covert and overt cameras.
“IFI has had a number of successful prosecutions over the last number of years,” the ESB said.