Saving our salmon: pilot project aims to take a balanced approach

NATURAL Resources Minister Conor Lenihan has made the right decision to enable a pilot fishery that will determine how a commercial fishery could be operated on salmon stocks in Castlemaine Harbour in Co Kerry.

This will make the most of the opportunities for a sustainable fishery that will ensure any stocks at risk are not compromised and surplus stocks are not overexploited.

The pilot fishery will be aimed at utilising a small proportion (800) of the large identified surplus (5,870) of wild salmon in the River Laune, which drains Killarney’s lakes.

Your editorial (May 26) attacking the minister perpetuates the social division that has hindered the proper management of our salmon resources in this country for decades.

The minister made his decision on the recommendation of the South Western Regional Fisheries Board, the statutory body responsible for the conservation and development of this wonderful resource.

This board does not regulate with a soft touch and has taken more prosecutions to protect our environment than any agency with environmental responsibilities in the state. Its staff have applied the law without fear or favour, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and has worked tirelessly to conserve and manage the wild salmon and our other fish species.

They have been extraordinarily successful. All of the major rivers in the south-west have a surplus well above that level of spawning stock necessary to produce the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Irish people like to eat fish. Very few of our other species have been verified to be in surplus. If we do not eat fish that we know to be in surplus, then what wild fish do we eat?

As an island nation it is important we utilise our inland fisheries, a key component of our natural resources, and that we do so to the best of our abilities in light of the expertise available to us.

We now manage our salmon fisheries on a river catchment basis. Unfortunately, many of our salmon rivers, particularly along the east coast, do not have a surplus. Conservation — not just to ensure salmon survival but to the extent that generates ‘maximum sustainable yield’ — is the national priority for such rivers.

But many have significant surpluses and it is important that our people and our editorial writers can distinguish between the two.

Where we have surplus we should utilise that to the maximum benefit of our communities. This is best achieved by a balanced utilisation on our behalf by those in the recreational angling sector and the traditional estuarine nets men.

Nationally we recognise the vital importance of engaging with the knowledge economy and the importance of achieving every possible advantage over our competitors to deliver sustainable, quality jobs.

However we must not neglect other sectors. We cannot afford to ignore anymore our unique advantages and our natural resources that cannot be relocated. We need our leaders to recognise this — and Mr Lenihan has done so. He has given a small community the opportunity to use their traditions, skills and knowledge so that the product they can sell — salmon from a sustainable fishery — is available to the extent only of one wild salmon for every 40,000 EU citizens.

This is a unique opportunity for them and for our country to demonstrate we are still world leaders in wholesome food from an environment we cherish.

It also shows there is a return on our substantial and continuing investment in salmon conservation through the years and it should be seen as an encouragement to others to restore their stocks so they can benefit too.

While your editorial did nothing to strengthen ties between the anglers and nets men, it is heartening to see that at local level in Kerry these communities who have a joint interest in the future of the salmon are now cooperating with local angling associations supporting the minister’s decision.

Aidan Barry


South Western Regional Fisheries Board


Co Cork

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