Dáil Éireann - Volume 597 - 08 February, 2005

Written Answers - Inland Fisheries.

  144. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has met with anglers’ representatives to discuss the damage caused by drift net fishing to salmon stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3672/05]

  157. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is his intention to enter into any discussions with fishing representatives and unions concerning the issue of drift nets in view of the reduction of Irish stocks of wild Atlantic salmon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3580/05]

  267. Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will introduce a change in policy to stop drift net fishing in view of the fact that this county faces the complete extinction of its natural salmon species, that only 10% of minimum spawning requirement now exists in the River Suir, for example, and that the restrictions in place are not providing protection of this species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3547/05]

  Mr. Gallagher: I propose to take Questions Nos. 144, 157 and 267 together.

I am fully aware of the widespread concerns being expressed, not just by anglers, about the viability of salmon fishing in Ireland. While I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with anglers’ representatives on the specific issue of drift net fishing, I am fully aware of their view that this method of fishing is having a damaging impact on the stocks of wild Irish salmon. The Government does not accept the validity of the [410] argument that its salmon management regime does not comply with international legislation or best practice nor does it accept that there is any sound or agreed scientific basis for the allegations made that the Irish salmon drift net fishery has an unacceptable impact on salmon stocks either in Ireland or in other European countries.

We are all agreed that over exploitation of fish stocks is a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of the inland fisheries resource. Since 1996, the Department has introduced a range of conservation measures which have seen considerable advances made in salmon policy and, in particular, the management of the commercial salmon fishery. As part of these measures, the drift net season is now confined to a two-month period in June and July on a four-day week basis. Fishing is only allowed during daylight hours and is confined to the area within the six-mile limit. The Department operates, through the regional fisheries boards, the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations which, inter alia, limit the total allowable commercial catch of salmon, TAC.

Furthermore, since 2002, the Government has implemented a strategy to ensure, through progressive reductions in catch, that the conservation limits specified by the standing scientific committee of the National Salmon Commission are being reached. This policy of promoting the application of quotas on commercial fishing, including drift netting and bag limits on angling, has delivered significant catch reductions aimed at achieving the overall shared objective of restoration of salmon stocks. Bearing this in mind, it is the Government’s belief that the current strategy of developing a sustainable commercial and recreational salmon fishery through aligning catches on the scientific advice holds out the strong prospect of a recovery of stocks and of a long-term sustainable fishery for both sectors.

I have no plans to introduce proposals to end the practice of drift netting for salmon or to purchase commercial salmon fishing licences in Ireland. Moreover, no convincing case has been advanced as to the public good that would be acquired by the State in the context of a publicly funded buy out or why stakeholders benefiting from increased numbers of salmon entering the rivers should not contribute in whole or in part towards achieving that increase. I am prepared, however, to keep the matter under review and would be open to any relevant proposals whereby stakeholders benefiting from any reduction in commercial catch might fund in whole or in part any compensation arising.