Abbeyfeale anglers want action on river fish stocks

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Liadh Ni Riada, Sinn Fein MEP, pictured with members of the Abbeyfeale Angling Association
ANGLERS along the Feale are lobbying for serious and urgent action to be taken in a bid to restore the once-mighty fishing river.

ANGLERS along the Feale are lobbying for serious and urgent action to be taken in a bid to restore the once-mighty fishing river.

And they are prepared to see the river closed for fishing for up to eight years in their determination to rectify the dearth of stock in the river.

Members of the Abbeyfeale Angling Association have lobbied the Minister responsible, about their concerns about stocking and this week, met Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada.

The extent of the fall-over in fish-stocks was spelled out by the association’s secretary, Dee Dennison. “In 1921/1922, there were 127,000 fish taken on the Feale between draught net and anglers,” he explained. “Last year, the figure was less than 4000.”

Global warming is a contributory factor in falling fish-stocks, along with net-fishing, Mr Dennison said, but factory ships that hoover up the crustaceans needed by salmon also play a part. Dense afforestation in the uplands has affected the spawning tributaries .

But these problems could be overcome, at least partially, if clubs such as theirs were allowed to restock the river, Mr Dennison argued. It is now 20 years since the last restocking of the river but the club can’t undertake a restocking programme “because scientists don’t want any interference with nature.”

And a plan to open a hatchery, put forward in 2000, was also stymied at planning stage.

“We would like to see the river closed for five to eight years to allow restocking and work on a catch and release basis only,” Mr Dennison said.

Club chairman, Paddy O’Sullivan was equally adamant that action needed to be taken. And both he and fellow anger Billy Brouder recalled 40 years ago when the Feale was a magnet for anglers, teeming with salmon and trout, and when hotels and B&Bs in the area were full of holidaymakers come for the fishing.

“We want to bring the river back,” Mr O’Sullivan stated.

Ms Ni Riada said she would be seeking a round-table meeting with Inland Fisheries Ireland and anglers.

“Conservation is a huge issue but it is also an issue affecting tourism here,” she said, when she met the Abbeyfeale anglers in the town this Monday. And she questioned the wisdom of the scientific community in opposing restocking. “It seems ludicrous,” she said.

Meanwhile. Cllr Seamus Browne has asked that the council remove the concrete slab it installed across the Oulagh river about 25 years ago. The slab has a negative effect on spawning, he said at a meeting of Newcastle West councillors this Wednesday.

“If you want to fill B&Bs, hotels and bars, you have to fill the Feale with salmon,” he said.

It was an ecological issue, he argued, and the solution was to build the bridge for which planning permission had been granted.

Council officials are now to meet the Abbeyfeale anglers and councillors to investigate the issue of the concrete slab.