Written Answers. - Fisheries Protection.

David Stanton

Question:

71 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the situation regarding the salmon quotas for the 2003 salmon season for all the fishing districts; the impact reductions will have on the income of fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10866/03]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

87 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, following the public submissions on the commercial salmon and sea trout catch for 2003, he will reconsider the proposed quota and limit it to 140,000 fish as recommended by scientific advice. [10860/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 87 together.

The overriding objective of the Government is to conserve the salmon resource in its own right and for the coastal and rural communities that it helps to support. The National Salmon Commission advises the Minister in relation to the conservation, management, protection and development of the national salmon and sea trout resource.

The commission, having completed a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme for 2002, recommended as part of its considered advice that the total allowable commercial catch of wild salmon for the 2003 season should not exceed 182,000 fish. The salmon commission tendered its recommendation based on the advice of its own standing scientific committee and the management of the central and regional fisheries boards. This represents a 17% cut on the total allowable catch for 2002, 219,649 fish, and a drop of 12% on the actual commercial catch in 2002, 206,899 fish.
In tendering this advice the commission recommended that a three-year strategy should be put in place to ensure, through further progressive reductions, that the conservation limits specified by its standing scientific committee should be reached by 2005. The National Salmon Commission has made a number of other recommendations aimed at improving the operation of the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme in 2003. In accordance with the requirements of the Fisheries Acts, I published the draft wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations on 11 March 2003.
The draft regulations incorporated the commission's recommendations. During the 30 day period to 9 April last, interested parties had the opportunity to submit objections which I am considering before making a final decision on the scheme for 2003. In all some 29 submissions were received. I also met a number of national delegations representing commercial fishermen.
Having considered the arguments put by all sides on the issue of quota, I am inclined to set the quota at that recommended by the National Salmon Commission. Other objections are being examined by my Department and will receive full consideration before I make a final decision on the scheme. I intend to publish the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations for 2003 later this week.
I recognise the concerns being expressed about the impact the reductions in quota will have on the income of commercial salmon fishermen. I am advised, however, by the Central Fisheries Board that the tagging scheme provides an opportunity to enhance the sale value of wild fish in that it offers on-line traceability to purchasers of salmon and acts as a quality symbol to enhance the reputation and value of wild caught salmon.
The experience of other fisheries internationally is a timely warning that we must strategically plan the exploitation of the valuable salmon resource lest we jeopardise its future for immediate gains. All of us involved in the inland fisheries sector must agree and accept the need for reduction in the fishing effort this year. The scientific advice is very clear that if we do not reduce our exploitation of the stocks, then we will have no salmon resource in the future.