Dáil Éireann - Volume 538 - 14 June, 2001

Written Answers. - Salmon Management Policy.

19. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed in a recent report from the World Wildlife Federation, The Status of Wild Atlantic Salmon: a River by River Assessment, that Irish salmon are being wiped out at an alarming rate due to pollution and over-fishing at sea; the steps he will to take to deal with the serious situation identified in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17391/01]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): I am aware of the recent publication by the WWF entitled, The Status of Wild Atlantic Salmon: A River by River Assessment. The document is stated to be a country by country report on populations of wild Atlantic salmon and identifies threats to these populations from various factors such as exploitation levels, degradation of fisheries habitat and water pollution.

The Marine Institute informs me that it has requested clarification from the WWF regarding some of the data and statements relating to Ireland which, in the view of the Marine Institute, are unsubstantiated and erroneous.

I have asked the Marine Institute to provide its own most up to date assessment of the state of stocks as quick as possible.

Salmon conservation measures at present are largely based on effort reduction. The commercial fishing sector is significantly restricted in terms of seasons, number of days fishing and times of fishing. Furthermore, the maximum [398] number of commercial licences which can be issued by the regional fisheries boards is capped.

Shortly after coming into office last year I moved quickly to establish the National Salmon Commission to advise me on the management and development of the national salmon resource. The work of the commission facilitated the introduction of the wild salmon tagging scheme at the start of this year. The purpose of the tagging scheme is to provide a verifiable count of the salmon catch by all sectors. The information gathered by the tagging scheme together with the fish counter programme will enable us to quantify our salmon in a new way. The real time management which will flow from the system will pay major dividends for the management of the salmon resource.

The commission has recently made a number of recommendations in relation to the conservation of spring salmon which are being processed by my Department at present with a view to the introduction of measures for next season.

In addition to making co-funding available for pilot set-aside schemes in catchments, I have asked the Salmon Commission to advise on appropriate mechanisms for the reduction of commercial salmon fishing effort in light of various proposals put to me. In conjunction, I have asked my Department to review comprehensively all the strategic options for future management of the commercial salmon fishery.

The salmon is vulnerable to a very complex range of factors. In particular the eutrophication of our inland waters is a major problem. I am consulting with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development on pilot initiatives for enhanced co-operation by all interests and agencies in individual catchments of eutrophication to tackle the causes.

Ireland still has a stock of wild Atlantic salmon which can if sustainably managed support a quality commercial and recreational fishery. However, there is no room for complacency in relation to the state of stocks. I must emphasise again that no sector can be relieved of its obligation to reduce its fishing effort on salmon in catchments at risk.