Wild salmon returns are up in Ireland, likely due to an easier run for the fish into Ireland's rivers during the COVID-19 lockdown.
While official data isn’t yet available, anecdotal evidence suggests that decreased predation during the coronavirus lockdown period may have allowed more of the fish to enter Ireland’s rivers from the Atlantic to spawn, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland, which provided details to SeafoodSource.
“Anecdotally, the fishing has been good on many fisheries at various times, we await the data to support this,” IFI said in a statement sent to SeafoodSource.
However, the longer-term trend of population decline for Ireland’s wild salmon remains, added the statement.
“We are witnessing the continued decline in salmon abundance in Ireland. Commercial salmon harvest numbers from 2007-2019 show that while there has been highs and lows over the years, overall we have witnessed a 35 percent decline in the commercial salmon fishery from 2007 to 2019,” IFI said.
As for salmon catch by rod and line for between 2001 and 2019, the total salmon catch in 2019 was 19,604, down 2.4 percent year on year.
“Similar to the commercial fishery, there has been highs and lows on an annual basis, but overall we have witnessed a 24.8 percent decrease in the angling salmon fishery since 2001,” the statement noted.
The declines in both the angling and commercial fishery are due to many factors, including “climate change; mortality of stocks at sea, which include predation by seals, diseases, and parasites; and marine pollution; and other factors.
“It has become increasingly evident that further protection and conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks is required through measures including the application of catch and release techniques and investment in habitat development and other similar conservation focused initiatives,” IFI said.
The IFI has over the past decade made several attempts to protect Ireland’s wild salmon stocks. In 2007, it put an end to mix-stock salmon fishing at sea and moved to single-stock management of salmon. Also since 2007, harvesting of salmon is only allowed in rivers where there is a surplus above the conservation limit.
“Rivers not meeting the conservation limit are open to catch and release angling where the catch limit meets or exceeds 65 percent,” IFI said. “Rivers below this threshold or with an average rod catch of less than 10 salmon are closed to angling for salmon (any size) and sea trout (over 40 centimeters).”
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