The survival of the sea trout angling industry in the west of Ireland remains under threat after 20 years of debate, according to the chairman of the Western Regional Fisheries Board, Lal Faherty.
There was no doubt of the link between the salmon farms and the demise of both wild salmon and sea trout, Mr Faherty said at the opening of the board’s new administrative headquarters at Earl’s Ireland recently. Yet after 20 years of unresolved debate, the impasse between marine salmon farms and the industry remained.
Sea trout stocks had suffered a catastrophic collapse in the late 1980s and had never recovered properly. Yet, he said, it was now well established that sea lice emanating from marine salmon farms were a major cause of mortality in juvenile salmon and sea trout in the sea.
Mr Faherty called on the Government to make “meaningful progess” to ensure the survival of the angling industry.
“Sea trout and salmon angling tourism go back to the beginnings of the tourism industry in Ireland when fishing was the first sport which drew tourist anglers to the west,” he said. “Since the advent of large-scale salmon aquaculture in Connemara, the sea trout fisheries have been under immense pressure and many have collapsed without any sign of recovery.
“I have seen at first hand the devastation of the Connemara fisheries and I would truly wish to see a solution to this impasse.
“The only way I see these two industries surviving in Connemara is for sea lice management and control to be stringent with mandatory sanctions and for marine salmon farms to be progressively moved away from important wild salmon and sea trout fisheries.”
Mr Faherty said the last substantial investment made in the infrastructure of the Corrib system was between 1994 and 1999 when €3 million was invested in the catchment.
However with new threats like the accidental introduction of alien species such as the zebra Mussel and Lagarosiphon major into Lough Corrib, there was an urgent need to refocus attention on this extremely valuable asset to ensure that the integrity of the lakes was adequately protected.
A significant first step had been made with the publication of the Biosecurity Plan for Lough Mask, and that should be used as a template for a nationwide effort to prevent the rapid spread of invasive species.
“Otherwise it is clear that our natural resources are under attack from alien invasive species and we are not doing what is necessary to control, and where possible, eliminate them.”