The Government faces a General Election backlash from salmon fishermen after approving an EU ban on drift netting, it was warned today.
Up to 400 netsmen marched on the Dáil as the Cabinet made its decision to outlaw the practice next year and release a multi-million euro compensation fund.
The Irish Traditional Salmon Netsmen’s Association today warned the ban will destroy livelihoods and that the hardship fund was too small.
Spokesman Martin Kerin said: “The compensation is paltry. Some of the fishermen will only get €2,000 or so. To impose a ban is just unbelievable."
Mr Kerin warned that salmon fishermen and their families may refuse to vote for Government candidates at the next General Election.
He said: “I think they will get a very negative response at the next election. It's no good having a TD represent you and your community if he doesn’t deliver what he promised at the last election. We’ll have to put in a new man to see if he can do better.”
He claimed UN laws of the sea say that fishing communities have the right to fish stock that is there.
Fishing groups will consider the Government’s decision after today’s demonstration.
The Government believes the ban will help reverse declining salmon stocks in our rivers.
The measure will outlaw drift-netting at sea and angling for salmon in a number of vulnerable rivers in the east and the south-east such as the Liffey, the Boyne, the Suir, the Barrow and the Nore.
The ban is expected to come into effect next year.
A hardship fund of €25m has been proposed by the Independent Salmon Group to compensate fishermen hit by the move.
Confirming Cabinet approval of the ban, Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey said the Government wanted to conserve wild salmon stocks which is valued as an important cultural and economic resource.
The compensation fund will give each fishermen a payment equal to six times their average annual catch over the period 2001-2005 multiplied by the average price per salmon over the period (€23).
Each fisherman will also receive a payment equal to six times the current licence fee.
The scheme will also be open to other commercial salmon fishermen who use nets such as snap and draft.
An additional €5m fund will be available for a community support scheme.
This support scheme is designed to aid the development of those communities where the impact of the cessation of drift netting will be hardest felt and provide alternative employment and economic opportunities for those affected.