WEST Limerick anglers have accused Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) of “gross mismanagement” of the River Feale after it was confirmed that local salmon stocks have hit a record low.
New restrictions are to be put in place on the river in 2013 after salmon numbers failed to reach a conservation quota last year, following a rapid decline in fish life over the past six years.
The exact cause for the collapse in salmon numbers on the Feale is unknown, but local anglers have pointed the finger of blame at the IFI and commercial net fishermen.
Brendan Danaher of the Mountcollins-Brosna Anglers Association said that measures restricting fishing on the Feale will unfairly impact anglers, who are being made to suffer for the “gross mismanagement” of the Feale by IFI.
However, an IFI spokesperson said that decline in salmon stocks on the Feale is part of a broader decrease in fish life in Irish rivers, and that they have constantly been working to avert a collapse in local fish stocks.
Figures from official counting weirs on the Feale highlight the stark drop in salmon stocks over the past six years. A total of 14,301 fish entered the river in 2007, compared to just 3,788 in 2012.
Last year’s salmon total came under a designated conservation quota of 4,323, which means that reduced quotas and restrictions are to be rolled out on the Feale in 2013.
IFI has designated that the total permitted catch on the Feale this year will be 1,992 salmon, which is to be divided between anglers and net fishermen.
However the spokesperson said that a decision on how many fish each group will be permitted the catch will not be decided until after a district committee meeting takes place locally, which may not be until April.
Mr Danaher said anglers are concerned that net fishermen have been allowed to over fish on the Feale and Cashen rivers in recent years.
He cited figures provided by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fergus O’Dowd, in November which show that the top eight net fishing licence holders on the Feale and Cashen caught 787 salmon between them in 2012, more than all 600 licensed anglers on the same rivers combined.
Mr Danaher said that anglers fear that if net fishing is continued to be permitted on the Feale and Cashen into August, when fertile salmon are making their way into the North Atlantic to spawn, “it will decimate further the salmon stocks on a once famous fishery”.