I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) manages salmon stocks on an individual river basis as each of Ireland’s over 140 salmon rivers (including river sections and estuaries) has its own genetically unique stock of salmon.
IFI is supported in its management role by scientific advice from Ireland’s independent Technical Expert Group on Salmon (TEGOS), comprising scientists from a range of organisations. IFI also has to have regard to EU legislation, most notably the Habitats Directive under which salmon are protected.
Scientific and management assessments use an average of the 5 years of data to estimate expected returns to ensure that a good or bad year does not have a disproportionate impact on the stock assessment in any single year.
Fisheries are only open to harvest where their individual conservation limit is sufficiently exceeded to safeguard the reproductive capacity of the unique stock. The conservation limit is the number of adult salmon required to maintain a healthy stock. The Owenascaul River is not closed to angling activity and has been open for catch and release angling since 2012. The river has a salmon conservation limit of 181 fish and the latest assessment is that the river is meeting 22% of its conservation limit. Electro-fishing surveys on the river in recent years have revealed a good average juvenile salmon density of 16.9 salmon fry. This is above the management threshold index of 15 salmon fry average where a river may be open for catch and release angling. The river has remained open for catch and release angling since 2012 based on juvenile salmon electro-fishing results. The river will not be open for harvesting of salmon until it meets is salmon conservation limit.
The Ballyseedy River is more commonly known as the River Lee in Kerry. The Scientific Group determined in 2007 that salmon rivers, such as the Lee, where rod catches were less than 10 salmon annually in the preceding 5 year period would remain closed on a precautionary basis until additional information is made available to assess salmon stock status relative to their Conservation Limits. This is consistent with responsibilities under the EU Habitats Directive which identifies salmon as a protected species.
Electro-fishing of juvenile salmon was undertaken most recently on the Lee in 2014 to provide an alternative scientific means of assessing the state of the stock. This recorded an average salmon fry (juvenile) count of 0.7 fry which is considerably below the management threshold index of an average salmon fry of 15 for a river to be open even for catch and release angling. I am advised by IFI that the stock will be kept under review and electro-fishing will be undertaken in 2020 to determine the current juvenile salmon density.