Ireland manages salmon stocks on an individual river basis. This management is carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the State Agency with statutory responsibility for inland fisheries. The management policy is based on the fact that each of Ireland’s 147 salmon rivers, river sections, estuaries, etc., has its own genetically unique stock of salmon, which migrates to sea as juveniles and returns to the same river in adulthood to spawn and create the next generation of fish exclusive to that river. IFI is supported in its management role by Ireland’s Standing Scientific Committee. IFI also draws on international advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
The Atlantic salmon is a protected species under the EU Habitats Directive with which Ireland’s current salmon management regime complies. In order to align fully with the Directive and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) principles, harvest fisheries are now only allowed on individual river stocks which are shown to have a surplus and in estuaries where the stocks from individual rivers entering the estuary are each meeting their individual conservation limits.
The conservation limit for any river is the number of adult spawning fish required to maintain a viable and sustainable salmon population. The river referred to is not open to harvest as it is not meeting its conservation limit but is above the threshold (50% of the limit) to justify catch and release angling. This permits people to engage in and enjoy angling activity while having a negligible impact of vulnerable fish stocks and encouraging the shared responsibility to contribute to conservation and the potential rebuilding of these stocks.
There are 39 rivers nationally which have catch and release status in 2018. It is considered preferable, from an angling perspective, to have a river open on this basis as opposed to the river being closed to all angling.
The conservation imperative demands that current salmon stocks are not further eroded by mismanagement or inappropriate exploitation, whether via angling or commercial fisheries.
IFI operates a confidential 24 hour hotline to which incidents of poaching and pollution and other activity can be reported. The number is 1890 34 74 24. I would encourage anglers and members of the public to immediately make a report if they suspect any illegal activity.