Local fishermen keenly aware of need to protect and maintain stocks

I WAS disappointed to read your editorial entitled ‘Fishery reopened — A disgraceful concession’ (May 26).

The piece criticised the decision by Minister Conor Lenihan to allow controlled salmon fishing in Castlemaine Harbour.

Your editorial described the decision as a “disgrace” and went on to say it is “another sad indication that we have not found the moral courage to put environmental responsibilities before commercial opportunity.”

I believe this is not a fair reflection on the detailed amount of study and consideration undertaken not only by Minister Lenihan, but also by the local fishing community.

Having been party to the discussions between the Castlemaine fishermen and the department in the run-up to the minister’s decision, I can assure you everyone paid great attention to the salmon stocks.

The fishermen in question are keenly aware of their responsibilities to protect and maintain the stock. They are looking to implement responsible fishing practices that will allow the Atlantic salmon to thrive in Castlemaine Harbour and the rivers feeding into it.

The fact is that of the five rivers designated salmon rivers feeding into Castlemaine Harbour, three have been running healthy surpluses over their conservation limits.

The Laune, the Maine and the Caragh have all been found to be well above the conservation requirements for the current year.

The stock for the remaining two rivers, the Behy and Emlagh, will be protected under the new programme.

Due to the successful conservation programmes that have been implemented in conjunction with the local fishing community, there is now scope to allow limited, responsible fishing and still protect the stocks.

The local fishing community know they need to protect the amount of salmon in their rivers. They realise the importance of salmon to Castlemaine Harbour from an environmental and ecological point of view. They also know that if they want to fish in future years, they need healthy numbers of salmon.

In short, no one cares more about the fish stocks than the local fishing community and they would never put commercial opportunities before environmental responsibility as your piece claimed.

I have been greatly impressed by the amount of detailed analysis that the fishing community, the Department and the Central Fisheries Board have put into this matter.

They have truly put a lot of thought and care into the decision. I would like to congratulate Minister Lenihan for taking this decision and I hope the new programme will be a complete success for everyone involved.

John O’Donoghue TD

Dáil Eireann

Leinster House

Dublin 2

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