Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Salmon Conservation


It is now widely acknowledged that stocks of wild Atlantic salmon across its range are in serious decline and southern stocks, including some in North America and Europe, are threatened with extinction. At the ‘Salmon Summit’ in La Rochelle, France in October 2011, international scientists confirmed that wild Atlantic salmon are dying at sea in alarming numbers. The reasons for increased marine mortality are not clear but international research into various factors contributing to this is on-going. Long term monitoring of the survival of salmon during the marine phase of their life cycle at the DCAL Bushmills Salmon Station shows a decline from around 30% returning from the sea prior to 1997 to less than 5% today. It is therefore imperative for those with the responsibility for the regulation and management of fisheries exploiting salmon to consider the need for further conservation measures to be introduced.

DCAL is responsible for the conservation of salmon and inland fisheries in the north of Ireland, with the exception of those in the Foyle and Newry areas which are the responsibility of the Loughs Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission. The UK, through the European Union, is party to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), which aims to conserve, restore, enhance and rationally manage Atlantic salmon stocks through international co-operation. As a jurisdiction within a Member State, we are expected by the EU to work towards meeting the objectives of NASCO agreements and resolutions.

In light of the perilous position of this iconic species, in December 2012 the DCAL Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, introduced a range of voluntary salmon conservation measures to be implemented in the DCAL jurisdiction for the 2013 season by commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. This has been widely supported and will help to minimise further exploitation of stocks.

DCAL proposes to introduce a series of Regulations to implement mandatory catch and release for salmon and sea trout angling and to prohibit commercial salmon and sea trout netting. The proposed regulations will also introduce some other minor amendments which are designed to update and improve the regulatory process. As part of this process, DCAL intend to update the Fisheries Regulations (NI) 2003 (SR 2003 No 525) which are the principal body of sub-ordinate legislation regulating angling and commercial fishing activity. The Department also proposes the introduction of two new regulations which will prohibit commercial salmon and sea trout netting whilst also providing mechanisms for compensation for affected netsmen and future eligibility for licence applications should such netting resume. The Department now seeks to obtain views from all interested parties regarding its proposals and has issued a Consultation document detailing all of the above.

To view the consultation click the link below:

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