A common problem in fisheries research is the lack of available ecological knowledge to guide and improve conservation strategies. Sea trout and brown trout are the same species but show distinct variations in their life-cycles. Whilst sea trout spend the majority of their adult life at sea, only returning to their birth stream to mate, brown trout are resident freshwater their whole lives, staying only in rivers and lakes. This dual behavior adds a layer of complexity for fishery managers and requires a variety of research techniques to answer ecological questions across multiple habitats.
An internationally renowned angling hotspot
Sea trout in the Currane catchment in Co. Kerry stand out from other trout populations in Ireland as among the largest, fastest growing and longest-lived in the country. These unique traits are renowned by anglers from all over the world, who come to fish this catchment with the local ghillies (boat operators).
Getting to the bottom of declining numbers
Unfortunately, recent anecdotal reports have estimated a 90% reduction in rod catch numbers throughout the Currane catchment, which is of major concern for trout stocks and the many locals who rely on angling as an important livelihood in the region.
A focused conservation effort
In response to this decline, Inland Fisheries Ireland started the Currane STAMP project in 2019 to investigate the ecology of both sea trout and salmon in the catchment and investigate potential threats linked to their decline. In addition, Bye-Law No. 971 of 2019 was implemented to prevent the retention of sea trout and permit only catch and release within the Currane catchment and surrounding waters of Ballinskelligs Bay.
Guiding management decisions
The information gained from the Currane STAMP project will be important for guiding management decisions and developing conservation strategies for both sea trout and salmon in the Currane. The three main aims of this project are:
- To assess the status of sea trout and Atlantic salmon populations (juvenile and adult), to gauge recruitment (stock replenishment) and to compare this with historical information.
- To collect information on spawning and nursery habitat locations and to measure their condition.
- To monitor movement behavior of trout, to examine their habitat range and migratory routes and to assess their survival at sea.
Traditional and novel methods
The Currane STAMP project will employ a range of traditional and advanced research techniques to monitor the population of sea trout and Atlantic salmon in freshwater and marine habitats. These include citizen science, electrofishing, habitat mapping and acoustic telemetry. Historical rod catch data will also be reviewed to examine population trends in the adult phase, identify how they have been affected and look for causal factors associated with their decline.
This project is funded by the Salmon and Sea Trout Rehabilitation, Conservation and Protection Fund (SCF) under the National Strategy for Angling Development and is supported by Met Eireann and a number of local ghillies and anglers.