A “MASSIVE” fall in salmon stocks on the river Feale could force fishing there to be banned within two years unless drastic action is taken, local fishermen have warned.
Members of the Abbeyfeale Anglers held talks with Minister for Agriculture and Marine, Simon Coveney, in Dublin earlier this month to highlight the plight of fish stocks in the Feale, which have fallen by 60% in just five years.
While local and national committees have been set up to investigate the nationwide drop in salmon levels, fishermen in Abbeyfeale believe that time is running out to find a solution.
Dee Dennison, of the Abbeyfeale Anglers, said that a salmon counter near Listowel found that in 2007 there were 14,500 salmon in the Feale. However last year, this had fallen to just 5,000.
“Even that 14,500 would be a minuscule fraction of what would have been in the Feale in the ‘40s or ‘50s. Obviously, there is something wrong at sea. The Government and a number of other governments around the Atlantic have set a group to try and find out exactly what’s happening.
“But there’s been a massive fall in stocks. The river, I believe, will have to be closed to fishing in two years unless something dramatic happens.”
Mr Dennison said that anglers believe that the collapse in salmon stocks in the Feale has been seriously accelerated by net fishing in August, which has been licensed since 2009.
“In August, you’re coming right up to the autumn spawning season. There are problems at sea, of course. But the damage that netting that long in August will do would compound whatever problems are happening at sea ten times over. Nets should not be allowed on the river in August.”
In recent months, anglers in the Feale basin have been working together to highlight the hastening collapse of local salmon stocks. Five local anglers’ groups joined together last year to create a unified lobby platform called the ‘Feale Alliance’, while earlier this month the Abbeyfeale Anglers held an open day in the town which featured demonstrations, angling lessons and messages about the importance of local fish life.
The anglers are currently also involved with the ‘Feale Initiative’, a working group comprised of net fishing representatives, anglers and officials with Inland Waterways Ireland. The group has met twice so far this year in Listowel, and Mr Dennison said that all sides appreciate the need to tackle their common problem.
“Normally, when anglers and netters are in the same room you can expect blood”, he added. “But we’ve had two meetings so far, and there’s been no rancour, no ill will and nothing badly expressed. We’re talking to each other directly.”
Mr Dennison added that in their meetings with them to date, officials with the Department of Agriculture have been productive. Minister Coveney, in particular, “was very attentive and seemed quite interested” during their meeting in Dublin. The group have also praised the efforts of Minister and local TD Jimmy Deenihan.
“August has to be off the books for netting. I imagine salmon anglers will have to take some pain too. A lot of anglers wouldn’t be the most politically minded of people. But we’ve all started to realise that there’s a serious problem”.