Dáil Éireann - Volume 493 - 01 July, 1998

Written Answers. - Salmon Fishing.

30. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the stated intention of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry to continue driftnetting for salmon into the month of August despite regulations which would make this activity illegal; the steps, if any, he has taken to reach an agreement between his Department and the association concerned which would prevent this dispute from escalating in view of the threat to the livelihoods of the fishermen involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15997/98]

38. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if salmon driftnet fishermen working off the Kerry coast are working a 32 day fishing season with shortened nets and have voluntarily withdrawn from fishing in the months of April and May; if a degree of flexibility has been indicated to the fishermen to take account of the late or early arrival of the salmon stocks upon which the fishermen rely for their livelihood; if so, the reason this flexibility has not so far been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16000/98]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 38 together.

The comprehensive package of conservation measures which I renewed for 1998 was put in place in 1997 on foot of the recommendations of the Salmon Management Task Force. The task force confirmed the necessity for action to address the serious decline in salmon stocks and to secure the future for all legitimate salmon interests whether commercial or recreational. I renewed the measures on the basis of the catch data and stock assessment advice and in line with the precautionary principle. All of the advice available to me points to the need to maintain at minimum the present regime in its totality. I am sure the Deputies concerned will understand and acknowledge the conservation imperative inherent in these measures. The conservation measures contain gains as well as losses for both commercial and recreational fishermen including, as part of the overall package, the legalisation of [1058] monofilament nets which had long been sought by the driftnet fishermen. The restriction on driftnetting for salmon to June and July only, which is a general restriction, should be seen in the context of the monofilament concession. I might also clarify that the fishing season is 36 days, not 32 as suggested by the Deputy, and that nets have not been shortened under the new conservation regime.

Initial reports on the salmon fishing season in the Kerry region and elsewhere suggest that it has been poor to date. However, the season is only half way through and I understand that in most years in the region, a large percentage of the catch tends to be taken in July.

These conservation measures are an intrinsic part of my salmon management strategy which includes the ongoing process of assessment and consultation on tagging and quota regimes, moving to the catchment management approach and improved scientific data on salmon stocks. My strategies to address the overall conservation management and development needs of the salmon resource take full account of the Salmon Management Task Force and the CFB five year plan. I will continue to build on the hard won consensus on salmon management which the task force achieved so admirably and in which the chairman of the Ballydavid Fishermen's Association played a critical and valuable role.

I would be glad to meet the chairman and representatives of the association to hear their views at first hand. I believe that all salmon fishermen including the Ballydavid association recognise the long-term critical importance of the measures now in place for the stocks on which they themselves depend. I am also sure that I can rely on the support of the Deputies in giving priority to the conservation of our unique salmon resource and in asking for all concerned to comply and co-operate with those measures.