Dáil Éireann - Volume 280 - 08 May, 1975

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ballyshannon Salmon Fishing.

36. Mr. Brennan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will announce the opening date for salmon fishing on the estuary of the river Erne at Ballyshannon, County Donegal.

Mr. Clinton: Presumably the Deputy is referring to net fishing as distinct from rod fishing. While the official netting season in the Erne estuary extends from 1st March to 19th August each year it has been found necessary in recent years, in the interest of the conservation of the stocks, to prohibit netting until a satisfactory escapement of salmon upstream had taken place. At this stage I am unable to say if or when netting operations will be permitted this year.

Mr. Brennan: Would the Minister state, from the information available to him, the number of salmon required to be recorded as having passed upstream and what number has passed to date?

Mr. Clinton: All I can tell the Deputy is that the escape of 2,000 salmon more or less ensures there is an adequate stock of spawning fish.

Mr. Brennan: Is the Minister satisfied that the pass is the proper type and permits the free passage of salmon to the extent it should? There are different kinds of passes—this is [1540] a matter with which I would not expect the Minister to be very familiar —but I would ask him to have the situation examined.

Mr. Clinton: I can assure the Deputy I am advised by the people on the spot, who should know, and if he has a feeling of doubt about the way the situation is being assessed at the moment I will have it looked at specially.

Mr. Brennan: I have grave doubt. I would ask the Minister to review also the attention being paid to this fishery by the ESB, whose responsibility it is. Is the Minister aware that the ESB do not seem to be giving it the same attention as they did in the past? I am sure he is aware that the livelihoods of 60 or more people depend to a great extent on this part-time fishing.

Mr. Clinton: I think it is because of concern about the livelihoods of these people that the ESB are so concerned to ensure that sufficient salmon get up to spawn. I am sure the Deputy will accept that. It may be that there is some error in the calculations being made or the methods being used, and I shall draw the special attention of those responsible to what the Deputy has said.

Mr. Brennan: Will the Minister consider having the estuary opened for fishing now even though the prescribed number of fish have not yet passed up in view of the fact that I think there is something not quite satisfactory about this man-made pass the fish must use in order to get to the upper reaches of the river?

Mr. Clinton: If I were to do that I would be acting contrary to the advice I am given by people who are supposed to be experts in assessing the situation, but I will certainly have the matter looked at.

Mr. Brennan: I seem to be asking a great many supplementaries, but the official view has been a bone of contention down the years. It is opposed to that of the experienced fishermen. The fishermen are satisfied [1541] that a very big number of salmon enter the estuary and not all of them succeed in getting to the upper reaches of the river because of this dam; those who do not get up go back to sea again and it would be in no way contrary to conservation rules if fishermen were allowed even one year's fishing in the estuary on experimental grounds. There is no doubt that the estuary has a great many fish.

Mr. Clinton: The Deputy appreciates I am no expert in this area but I will certainly have his remarks conveyed to where they will do most good.

Mr. Brennan: The Minister will have a serious look at this.

Mr. Clinton: I will.