Inland Fisheries Ireland is the state agency responsible for the protection, management and conservation of Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling resources. This includes the Atlantic salmon, one of our premier angling species.
A worrying trend
Worryingly, the number of Atlantic salmon returning to spawn in Ireland’s rivers has declined over the past few decades, most notably, due to increased mortality at sea.
Since 2007, salmon stocks have been individually annually assessed in selected Irish rivers. Knowing the stock levels for each river, we can advise on the number of fish that might be sustainably harvested, without impacting the future stability of the population.
Atlantic salmon conservation work at Inland Fisheries Ireland is supported by independent scientific advice provided by the Technical Expert Group on Salmon (TEGOS) and its parent body the cross-border North South Standing Scientific Committee on Inland Fish (NSSSCIF).
Setting conservation limits and assessing the status of salmon stocks
The data sources used by the TEGOS include fish counter data, angling logbooks and commercial catch statistics, supplemented by expert opinion on the fishery status of each salmon river. Each river has a designated conservation limit: the probable number of returning salmon that meet the spawning requirements to maintain a river’s salmon population.
In a given year, TEGOS uses data from the previous five years to predict the number of adult salmon that will return the next year (year six). If the predicted return of fish in year six is greater than a designated conservation limit for each river, we deem there to be a surplus of fish. This means that we can set an allocation or limit on the number of fish that can be harvested by commercial fishing or angling, without affecting the overall sustainability of the population.
On this basis, fisheries may be opened for harvest, opened for catch-and-release only or closed for angling. The stock assessment takes into account the one-sea-winter grilse (1SW) and multi-sea-winter springer (MSW) stocks of each river where appropriate.
Enacting legislation to protect salmon stocks
The advice of Inland Fisheries Ireland, supported by TEGOS and NSSSIF, is submitted to the Minister for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The Minister subsequently publishes corresponding draft regulations, followed by a 30-day public consultation period. After this, the draft regulations are finalised and enacted in advance of the next salmon angling season.
As well as legislating whether each salmon river is opened for harvest, opened for catch-and-release only or closed for angling, the salmon regulations stipulate total allowable catches for salmon rivers that are open to harvest.