Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Bushmills Salmon Station

Photgraph of young salmon being recorded at River Bush Salmon Station

We are responsible, under the provisions of the Fisheries Act (NI) 1966, for the salmon and inland fisheries of Northern Ireland and provide advice and guidance on matters relating to the conservation, protection, development and improvement of salmon and inland fisheries to angling clubs, fishery owners, and a range of other water users and interested parties.

The River Bush is managed as a premier salmon river by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) Inland Fisheries Division. In addition, DCAL operates a fish farm and hatchery at the River Bush Salmon Station, which provides assistance to the River Bush Salmon Research Project. The project was set up in 1972 and is a long term programme of research investigating both the sea water and fresh water phases of the lifecycle of the Atlantic salmon (salmo salar). Specially designed counting facilities, which intercept smolts (juvenile salmon migrating downstream to sea) and adults returning to the River Bush to spawn, allow fish to be counted individually. This provides annual counts of smolts and adults enabling analysis of short term and long term data.

Salmon reared at the River Bush Salmon Station are released as smolts (known as ranching) to provide additional adults returning to the river. These fish are easily identified on their return and a proportion have a small tag which provide data on how many smolts survive at sea and return as adults to the river. Some of the ova and fry produced in the hatchery from these returning adults are used for stock enhancement of the River Bush or to reinstate salmon in rivers where their numbers are at a critical level or extinct. The research programme has lead to the recognition of the River Bush as an index river by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The designation of the River Bush requires it to provide long term scientific data to ICES, whose concept states that specific rivers should be selected and monitored over a long period to provide information on annual smolt production, exploitation rates, geographical distribution of catches, adult returns and spawning escapement.

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