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Government drifts while wild salmon decline

Urgency in tackling the massive decline in North Atlantic wild salmon stocks is underlined in the following open message to the people and Government of Ireland which recently appeared in the Irish Times newspaper, and in a newsletter released by FISSTA, the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers on February 18, 2003.



Commercial fishermen on all sides of the North Atlantic have seen the steep slump in wild salmon numbers. Realising the dangers of over-fishing they have decided they must help us rebuild the stocks. This includes the netsmen of Ireland.

Wild salmon are born in the rivers of most countries round the North Atlantic and then roam the ocean, growing as they go before returning to perpetuate their species. Irish drift nets, the greatest threat they face on their homeward journeys, are killing far too many of them before they can get back to spawn. That's why we ask:


Most of the salmon that should be returning to the rivers of France, Spain, Germany, Wales and England are nearly extinct. In North America the Atlantic salmon is now an endangered species. The Irish drift net fishery is thwarting salmon restoration projects elsewhere in Europe that are costing billions of euros. In other countries netsmen have agreed that for the good of the species they will not fish for salmon in 2003. Some have even stopped permanently. Some 80% of Irish netsmen are also so worried that they want to stop netting salmon either permanently or for a period that will allow stocks to recover. What is standing in the way? Why doesn't it happen?

The blame lies with the Irish Government which refuses to join us in funding a compensation scheme to protect the fishermen's earnings. Our proposals to the Irish Government would save you, the taxpayers of Ireland, millions of euros. But they haven't listened. It's time that you did. Just imagine how much money would pour into the Irish tourist industry if your rivers were full of salmon again.


This is a message from the International Coalition Against Mixed Stock Salmon Netting: NASF France, NASF US, NASF Spain, NASF Germany, NASF Denmark, NASF Iceland, NASF Sweden, NASF Finland, NASF Switzerland, FISSTA (Federation of Irish Salmon & Sea Trout Anglers), NARA (National Anglers Representative Association of Ireland.

FISSTA, in its newsletter, states:

"As all FISSTA members who have campaigned for the conservation of the Wild Atlantic Salmon know very well, this coming month [March] is the crucial one for the whole species as Minister of State John Browne TD, at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources decides on the future of our dwindling wild salmon stocks.

Last January 10th 2002 the then Minister for the Marine, Mr. Frank Fahey TD, announced that the National Salmon Commission (NSC) had been ordered to set quotas for the different districts. He said that the quotas could not be transferred between individual fishermen. He also admitted: "It is clear from the scientific advice that reductions in overall fishing efforts are required to sustain and rebuild salmon stocks." But sadly, these words were never put into action and by the time the May election was won and the netting season opened in June, the commercial fishermen were not just awarded with more salmon quota than they could ever catch, but the individual non-transferrable quota, which Minister Fahey promised, was never implemented. The silence from all members of the National Salmon Commission…..confirmed their helplessness in what was just another one in the litany of broken promises to FISSTA and the international salmon coalition.

As the National Salmon Commission once again meets to draw up advisory recommendations for Minister Browne, one objective must not be conveniently forgotten ever again--that only an "individual non-transferrable quota" be introduced, as promised in the General Election of last May 2002. Anything less from this new Government and Minister will herald another term of delay and continue a policy in the annual over exploitation of over 400,000 salmon by the commercial sector.

The success of the pre Xmas 2001 campaign run by FISSTA was a crucial factor, along with the formation of an international North Atlantic Salmon Fund Coalition that highlighted Ireland's indifference to the damage its netting policy was doing to its European partners and asked the European Commission for measures to remedy the situation.

Following a high profile campaign during December 2001, the Minister was forced to announce these concessions on the 10th January 2002 which included the individual non-transferrable quota for the commercial sector. However, while the commercial netsmen succeeded in overturning this conservation decision last year, FISSTA will refuse to accept such similar treatment this season.

The first act of this new Minister was the introduction, on Christmas Eve 2002, of a 73% increase in the rod license fee without any consultation or conservation measures, which enraged every member of the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers.

The 20 salmon individual non transferable quota on every rod by Junior Minister John Browne, T.D. broke yet another election promise given in writing to FISSTA that "there would be no quotas on anglers". The time is long overdue for the Minister to conserve stocks by imposing the very same quota on netsmen as he has done on anglers. Anything less than the introduction of an individual non-transferrable quota will result in a backlash from both local and international salmon conservation bodies. Attempts will continue by FISSTA to convince the Government to end this over exploitation policy, and protect an international resource which Government scientists estimate the run to be around 500,000 salmon and which is decreasing rapidly.

FISSTA will continue to fight for salmon conservation until an agreed buyout of the commercial nets is operating satisfactorily."

As repeatedly highlighted on this web site, Atlantic wild salmon stocks are seriously under threat on the east coast of Canada, and on the west coast have suffered massively since the expansion of commercial fish farms. Readers may wish to consult The Massacre of the Salmon for further information.


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