(10 June 2005) – Irish drift netting came in for considerable attention at the annual meeting of the Council of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) held in Vichy, France from June 7th to 10th. Most notably the head of the EU delegation to the meeting, Ole Tougarde of the EU Commission, told the assembly that the Commission was actively reviewing the entire inshore salmon management regime in Europe. He strongly hinted that this action was being driven by frustration at the manner in which mixed stock fishing for salmon was still being carried out in Scotland and, especially, in Ireland.
The failure of the Minister for the Marine, Mr Pat the Cope Gallagher TD, to fulfil a longstanding Government commitment to follow the scientific advice in setting the 2005 salmon catch quota was also raised. In his opening statement on behalf of the Non Governmental Organisations accredited to the meeting, Chris Poupard of the European Anglers Alliance described the Minister’s decision on the quotas as a “rebuff” to NASCO which “outraged stakeholders and disturbed governments across Europe”. He added that “in addition to inflicting continued serious damage to the recovery prospects of threatened stocks in Irish rivers, the Irish drift nets are intercepting 10/12% of salmon from rivers in Wales and Southern England”. He noted that the pressure to maintain high and unacceptable levels of salmon catches in Ireland arose directly from “the failure of the Irish government to take decisive political action” on drift netting.
The latest data on the impact of Irish drift nets on Welsh and English rivers were presented to the conference by Dr Walter Crozier of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. This report demonatrated that while the impact had been considerably reduced since new restrictions were introduced in 1997 and while the impact fluctuated from year to year, some 10 to 12% of all fish returning to rivers in South Wales and South West England were being taken in Irish nets.
In addition to Irish civil servants and scientists who were part of the EU delegation, Ireland was represented at NASCO 2005 by Niall Greene of the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers and Paddy Byrne of the National Anglers Representative Association, both accredited NGOs to NASCO.