Report of the Independent Salmon Group

Managing for the Conservation of our National Salmon Resource in 2007 and beyond

The Conservation Imperative

Marine survival of salmon in the North Atlantic has decreased significantly in the past decade. Less than half to one third of the stock returning to rivers in the 1970s and 1980s is currently returning to Irish rivers. Salmon stocks are unlikely to disappear from Irish rivers in the short term. However, at current stock and survival levels the expectation of large catches such as those in the pervious two decades is unrealistic.  The current imperative is maintaining stocks above Conservation Limits or at the very least halting the decline.

International Obligations

International best practice for the management of North Atlantic Salmon requires the adoption of the precautionary approach and the cessation of indiscriminate mixed stock fisheries. (Recommendations of the North Atlantic Salmon Organisation (NASCO) and the International Council for the Exploitation of the Sea (ICES)).

EU obligations require Ireland to comply with the Habitats Directive, which also imposes the precautionary approach and requires an end to indiscriminate mixed stock fishing. The EU Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion against Ireland for non-compliance with the Habitats Directive. Ireland could face substantial fines if the European Court of Justice upholds the Commissions complaint.

Implications of Complying with Scientific Advice

The Government is committed to aligning with scientific advice in 2007 and thus implementing NASCO and ICES recommendations and complying with the Habitats Directive.

The Government recognised that compliance with scientific advice from 2007 onwards could mean hardship for commercial fishermen and vulnerable coastal communities. Accordingly, the Government decided to appoint an Independent Group to examine all the implications of aligning with scientific advice for commercial fishermen salmon fishing.

The specific remit of the Independent Group included:

Advising the Government of the implications of fully aligning with the scientific advice and in particular the hardship that may arise for individuals in coastal communities:-

  • Determining the scale of financial loss which will be experienced as a result of measures imposed on the commercial salmon fishery.
  • Making recommendations, if appropriate, to address any financial hardship experienced.
  • Considering the extent to which those stakeholders, who would be the main economic beneficiaries of more salmon being returned to the rivers, should contribute to any scheme, whether in cash or in kind including improved tourist access.
  • Determining the implications for the angling sector.

The Government has adopted the key recommendations of the report by the Independent Group.

The Government’s primary motivation in adopting the report is that of conservation of the wild salmon species, which has long been regarded as one of Ireland’s most prized fish, instilled in our traditional mythology as the Bradán feasa, the salmon of knowledge, and valued as a cultural and economic resource.

In this regard it is vital to afford every protection to the remaining stocks and to clearly prioritise conservation over catch. The current imperative must be to maintain stocks above conservation limits or at the very least halt the decline.

The Government realise that these proposals will entail hardship for commercial fishermen and vulnerable coastal communities. To offset this they have established a hardship scheme for those affected. This fund, worth over €25 million, will give each fishermen a payment equal to six times their average annual catch over the period 2001-2005 multiplied by the average price per salmon over the period (€23). Each fisherman will also receive a payment equal to six times the current licence fee.

An additional €5 million fund will be available for a community support scheme. This support scheme will be designed to aid the development of those communities where the impact of the cessation of drift netting will be hardest felt and provide alternative employment and economic opportunities for those affected.

From now on we can expect our management of wild salmon will be based on an individual river basis. This is a quantum leap from our previous management of the fishery and will ensure that we can optimise the potential benefit of returning salmon, as well as ensuring that in each river salmon stocks will in time return to a healthy status.

 Achoimre Feidhmiúcháin This links to a Microsoft Word Document

Tuarascáil Ghrúpa Neamhspleách na mBradán 10/2006 This links to a PDF document

Report of the Independent Salmon Group - 10/2006 This links to a PDF document

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