This quotation is from Doctor Ken Whitaker’s paper presented to a symposium on Salmon Conservation, held at Cappoquin House on November 13th, this symposium was organised in association with The Blackwater Salmon Development Group and hosted by Sir Richard Keane.

Doctor Whitaker said that the most affected corrective is a halt to the killing of so many adult fish on their way to spawning. Revising the decline is an urgent priority.

Nets take 80% of the Irish catch; the value to netsmen is now €2.5m yearly, net of costs. Divided among 875 licensed drift-net fishermen, the return averages €2,850 per head yearly, that low income is in continual decline.

Much greater National return comes from the 20% of Salmon stocks landed by Tourists and other Anglers. Tourist angling is under similar threat. Doctor Whitaker reiterates that all engaged in fishing must accept a limitation of catches if Salmon are to survive. The alternative is irreparable loss.

Orri Vigfussion, Chairman of The North Atlantic Salmon Fund, agreed that the Atlantic Salmon is facing crisis. He added: "It is time we stopped being selfish and greedy". The Salmon species in France, Germany, Spain and the U.S.A is today virtually dead. Ireland will go the same route if the Irish Government does not act firmly to curtail fish slaughter. At present there is tinkering with the problem. About €30m yearly is spent on State administration of Salmon regulations. Staff absorb 70% of this. Little is spent on habitat development while seed stock is running below critical levels. The measure return is €2 to €3m in landings of netted Salmon. Orri Vigfussion contrasted the low payback with the Tourist potential of the developed Salmon population, his Iceland experience suggests that Ireland has a Salmon Angling Industry with a potential earning capacity of €200million per annum. He asked: "Is there any Irish Civil Servant who is prepared to talk about a comprehensive and integrated plan?" The contrast between the current decent to oblivion and a flourishing future is stark. Many people in Ireland want change. Vigfussion concluded: "It seems to me that the real enemies of Salmon in Ireland must be Civil Servants and Politicians. They appear to be hidebound in old and familiar attitudes".

In scientific detail Doctor Phillip McGinnity and Doctor Paddy Gargan of the Marine Institute are monitoring the decline in Salmon stocks; Phillip McGinnity presented a paper to the Cappoquin meeting. He showed that the accelerated reduction in stocks is compounded by poorer water quality in Rivers and by a more hostile marine environment for migrating fish. Smolts are reduced in numbers and vigour by poor river quality. The decline of the past thirty years has been arrested but we have not yet seen a return to pristine water. Higher sea temperatures in the North Atlantic do not favour migrating Salmon. Despite negative indicators Salmon stocks could be retrieved by measure reduction in the annual catch and by improvement in the river environment. The production potential of each river should be assessed and measures taken to develop the rivers latent capacity.

While based on the Blackwater the symposium had Salmon interest from all the main Irish Salmon rivers including Northern Ireland. A resolution was passed calling on the Government to take effective action and reverse the trend towards extinction of the Irish Wild Salmon. Scientific advice to achieve this objective should be allowed.

Paddy O’Keefe 15.11.02