SALMON stocks in the River Feale are plummeting towards an all-time low and could result in fishing being banned on the river from as early as next year, local anglers have warned.
The number of salmon passing through an official counter on the Feale near Listowel in the first six months of 2012 was just 1,055, a fall of more than 50% from the same time last year. These latest figures mean that it is increasingly possible that salmon fishing will be prohibited on the Feale in 2013, as the number of salmon on the river this year could fall short of a conservation quota.
Local anglers have described it as “a crisis situation” which demands drastic action. Brendan Danaher of the Brosna-Mountcollins Anglers said that salmon stocks are at their lowest in living memory.
“I’m on the river for the last 50 years. I’ve spent my whole life fishing and talking about fishing. Sea trout have disappeared from the River Feale. I tell you, whatever caused the collapse in sea trout will do the same to salmon. We’re reaching a crisis situation”.
In June anglers from Abbeyfeale and the surrounding area met with officials at the Department of Agriculture and Inland Fisheries Ireland in a bid to highlight the “massive” depletion in salmon stocks on the Feale in the past five years.
Figures taken from the Feale weir show that in 2007 there were 14,301 salmon on the river, however by 2009 this had fallen to 5,868. In 2011, after a brief spike in 2010, the total number of salmon was 5,462.
It is understood that for conservation purposes, the Feale needs to reach a quota of 4,323 salmon to allow for licensed angling and net fishing to take place there in 2013.
Mr Danaher said that while 1,059 salmon were counted on the Feale in July, in advance of the autumn spawning season, there remains a strong possibility that the river will not have sufficient stocks come year’s end.
“If I went out into the water when I was a child, I was standing down on salmon. No word of a lie, I was out four nights last Christmas, and I saw a total of eight salmon. This is a real, serious problem”.
Mr Danaher echoed the concerns of other anglers about the alleged damage being done to the river by net fisherman, whom he feels were “placated” by previous governments. He said that if the Feale is cut off to all fishing, what little salmon remain will be wiped out by poachers.
“When you shut down the river, you’ve about 45 miles of a run with only a couple of bailiffs to watch it. How are you going to protect it?”
Mr Danaher added that the closing of the river would force angling clubs like his to disband, which would have “a huge social impact”.
A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said that they have been “actively engaging with the stakeholders on the Feale and will continue to do so in relation to the conservation, protection and management of the salmon stock”.
The spokesperson said that “IFI will continue to monitor movement of salmon and catch statistics for the 2012 season on the Feale and use these, together with data from salmon runs around the country to ascertain the position”.
The spokesperson added that “marine survival must also be taken into account when considering salmon stocks, a poor grilse run may be a result of poor marine survival”.