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Priority Questions. - Salmon Stocks.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 29. Mr. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if he has satisfied himself with the level of protection of salmon stocks on rivers; his views on whether pollution levels are too high on many lakes and rivers; his plans to step up protection measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3855/02]

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey The regional fisheries boards are statutorily responsible for the protection of fisheries and the enforcement of the Fisheries Acts. The Central Fisheries Board has an overall co-ordinating role to ensure that resources are deployed efficiently and effectively. The measurable outputs from protection activities include the deterrence of poachers, the taking of prosecutions and the seizure of nets. I am generally satisfied the combined operations of the boards in partnership with the Garda Síochána, the Navy and the Air Corps provide an effective level of protection for salmon stocks against illegal fishing activity. There is room for improvement, however. I have requested the Central Fisheries Board to review the efficiency and effectiveness of the salmon protection programme at regional and national levels. The review will assess performance and results over the past five years and the extent to which all available resources have been efficiently deployed. It will advise on the scope for enhanced co-operation on the ground and on the development of improved performance indicators. I have asked the Central Fisheries Board to complete the review in advance of this year's peak salmon season.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently published its report on Water Quality in Ireland 1998 to 2000. In the case of rivers, the report shows a reversal in the trends of slight and moderate pollution and a slight reduction in serious pollution generally. Modest improvement in the water quality status of our lakes has also been noted.

I am encouraged to note the improvements reported by the EPA. However, pollution remains the most serious threat to fish stocks. Under the national development plan more than €3 billion has been provided for water and waste water treatment which is providing the essential infrastructure to deliver on the water quality objective.

The success of our pollution prevention strategies critically depends on all relevant Departments, agencies, farming, angling and other groups working effectively together. The environmental catchment management process has already paid dividends. I am also working with ministerial colleagues to ensure enhanced cross-departmental co-operation under the water quality directive framework.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton I thank the Minister for that reply. I spoke to a number of fishermen from Donegal last week. They have formed themselves into what they would call a traditional fishing organisation for traditional fishermen along the coast. Their point was that the value added which should be there for their fishing does not exist for the reasons the Minister has outlined. They do [1471] not believe their stocks are being protected. There are several seasons, or parts of seasons, during which there is no protection. They make the case, and we are talking about almost 1,000 families if one takes the whole membership into account, that they could make a much better living if they received help in terms of protection. They were one of the first outfits to tag the salmon and they thought, as I did when the legislation was going through the House, that protection would be stepped up in return but that was not done. Given the number of jobs likely to be created in those remote areas, much effort should be put into this because these people are trained to fish and they should get the first chance of fishing in the river. Against that background, they believe the protection system has let them down.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey The anglers had the worst record in terms of using the tags provided this year and the commercial net men were the best. I have urged the anglers to co-operate fully this year with the tagging scheme. The Deputy is correct in saying there have been difficulties with regard to the illegal fishing of wild salmon and we have taken stringent action in that regard. We are faced with the problem of criminal gangs, some of whom have been convicted in the courts on more than one occasion, continually poaching wild salmon. I am conscious of that and, in addition to the other series of initiatives I have taken this year, I will shortly meet with the assistant commissioner and the Garda chief superintendents along the west coast, from Donegal to Cork, so that we can have much more effective policing of our key rivers and apprehend these gangs, some members of which have significant criminal records. The regional fisheries board managers will be invited to that meeting.

I have initiated a new scheme with a number of angling clubs so that they will provide better surveillance and intelligence both to the fisheries officers in the fisheries boards and the gardaí. During the debate on the legislation, I said we all have to accept that illegal catching of wild salmon is a criminal activity of the lowest type and that until such time as local communities are prepared to provide the information and the intelligence about those who are involved, it will be very hard to stop it. I urge everybody, and I call on the Opposition to do likewise, to co-operate in this respect.

On the pollution problem, a tripartite approach is now being taken by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Deputy Walsh, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and myself to focus on some of the areas which experience serious pollution problems. Together, we will try to allocate moneys in a more focused way, and this will include some developments in Donegal.

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