The National Salmon Commission is a statutory body established to assist and advise me, as Minister with responsibility for the marine, in regard to the conservation, management, protection and development of the wild salmon and sea trout resource in Ireland. The salmon commission includes representatives of the commercial salmon fishing sector, the angling sector and other relevant stakeholders, and provides the primary forum in which the vital issues relating to salmon conservation can be considered. As such, I attach significant importance to the role of the commission in the management of this important natural resource.
Earlier this year, when setting the commercial salmon quotas for the 2005 season, I accepted the outgoing commission's recommendation and gave a firm commitment to fully align the exploitation of salmon, both at national and district levels, on the scientific advice by 2007. With this in mind, I have asked the new National Salmon Commission to advise me as to how best this alignment can be implemented and, in doing so, to propose how an objective balance between competing interests in the salmon fishery may be obtained within the framework of the conservation management mechanism as necessary.
To assist it in this task, I have provided specific terms of reference for the National Salmon Commission which are set out in the National Salmon Commission (Terms of Reference) Order 2005, S.I. No. 627 of 2005. While I am aware of calls for a ban on drift net salmon fishing in Ireland, the Deputy should be aware that the latest scientific advice available to me has not recommended an outright or immediate cessation of drift net fishing for salmon. Such a cessation is not regarded as necessary to protect the biological health of salmon at a national level as there remains an abundance of fish nationally and the scientists recognise that determining the balance of exploitation at this level between different fisheries is an administrative and political choice, to be taken having full regard not just for the biological perspective but also for the wider socioeconomic considerations. The scientific advice is clear, however, that the priority must be to align exploitation on the scientifically recommended conservation levels as quickly as possible. What is also certain is the Government's commitment to the scientific advice and to the adoption of the scientific recommendations on conservation limits by 2007.
I can assure the Deputy that I will examine carefully all recommendations, including those relevant to drift netting, made to me by the National Salmon Commission in this regard.