An Emergency Public Meeting of the Slaney River Trust, attended by 50 people held on Tuesday in Bunclody, called on Minister Sean Kyne to reverse the draft decision to close the Slaney for salmon fishing in 2017. The meeting voted by 98% to call for the Minister to meet a delegation drawn from all parts of the river to hear why, for conservation purposes, it is essential that the river remains open in 2017.
The meeting expressed its disbelief that it was proposed to close the river due to low stock levels when following the removal of over 200 salmon and 2,000 seatrout from the tailrace of the Clohamon weir at the end of July by electrofishing which were put in above the weir ( with apparent significant mortality ), large numbers of fish are still trapped in the tailrace today.
Since then no attempt has been made to release them or the many other fish which have subsequently become trapped. Without immediate action none of these fish will be able to spawn representing a potentially massive loss to the river’s stock.
It was agreed that this situation must be addressed urgently by Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Department and the local County Councils and a solution found to both prevent fish entering the tailrace and to address the long term issue of waterflows over the weir.
Detailed points made by participants at the meeting included:
In the absence of reliable counter information it was felt that the analysis behind the decision to close the river was largely based on the result of this year’s electrofishing. Concern was expressed as to the electro fishing procedures adopted. Also the 2016 numbers for juvenile fish in some areas will have been significantly affected by the wash out of redds by the exceptional flooding experienced last winter which was a one off event.
The objective of closing the river is to reduce salmon mortality. Closure is likely to increase salmon mortality. The reason is that properly handled fish caught on single barbless hooks returned to the river suffer minimal losses. Based on 2015 catches of 191 fish ( all returned ) a mortality rate of 5% would have resulted in the loss of say 10 salmon. However closure would mean poachers would have easy access to poach. It is not unreasonable to think poachers could take 10 salmon per week or more during the season.
It was accepted that the most important reason as to why the closure would be a conservation disaster for the river was that the absence of legally licensed anglers would mean the policing effort against poachers would be greatly diminished. The staff of Inland Fisheries Ireland do good work but are very under resourced. There should be no doubt that poachers will kill all fish that they take, will use illegal methods of angling and have no respect for close seasons. There have been a number of instances in recent years of spawning fish being taken from the redds. The river is close to the road and wooded for much of its length. Inland Fisheries Ireland cannot adequately police the river without the information flow from licensed rod anglers. The presence of licensed anglers on the river clearly deters poachers.
Information was not available to the meeting on the scientific analysis which led to the decision to close the river because it has not been made public.
All SRT members, anglers on the river and other interested parties were urged to write to the Department expressing their opposition to the closure. The consultation period closes on 11 December and letters of objection should be sent as soon as possible.