A threat to the future of the North Western Regional Fisheries Board situated in Ballina has been highlighted by CEO of the board Vincent Roache.
At a meeting of Ballina Town Council this week Mr Roache said while Minister Conor Lenihan TD was happy to retain the board’s office in Ballina, he fears that a future government or future minister would centralise it with the Western Regional Fisheries Board into one office, possibly situated in Galway.
By the end of this year all fisheries boards are to be abolished with one organisation to replace them - the Inland Fisheries Ireland. This organisation will cover all of the country with its head quarters based in Dublin. While there will be some regional fisheries retained, the net effect, according to Mr Roache, would be the amalgamation of the North Western and Western boards into one western board.
According to the CEO the area which would extend from north Leitrim to north Clare would be far too big to manage on its own and there are further concerns about where the headquarters would be situated. While the boards have been told there will be two offices maintained for the present time, in the long term the situation is not clear and Mr Roache said they want it written into legislation that the two boards will be retained in the west.
The current proposals go against government policy of decentralisation and have been likened to the restructuring of the health boards.
The Moy River, which runs through Ballina and Foxford, along with other important fisheries in the region, accounts for a third of the salmon catch in the country, and an annual investment of €2 million in the Moy catchment returns a spend of between €12 million and €15 million to the local economy.
Cllr Michelle Mulherin, at Wednesday night’s meeting, proposed that the town council write to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan asking that a fully serviced and functioning fisheries headquarters would be retained in Ballina.
According to the Fine Gael councillor Ballina is a natural home for a centre of excellence for angling and fisheries as well as an interpreter centre.
More than 7,200 salmon were caught on the Moy this year and the river attracted fishermen from 30 different countries. A new live web cam which enables fishermen from all over the world to assess the river’s condition at the Ridgepool received some 17,000 hits this year, an increase from 10,000 last year.
Mr Roache also outlined to the meeting improvement works which are scheduled for the Moy this year including the restoration of the river wall at the Cathedral and the revamping of weirs following on from the opening of the new footbridge.
Fishing is at the heart of the tourism economy in Ballina and the North Western Regional Fisheries Board benefits from the experience of local groups and a stock pile of knowledge and expertise which has been passed down through generations. Board members are elected by various groups and the fear is once the new Inland Fisheries Ireland is set up that source of knowledge will be lost. Locals also work with the board in relation to conservation.
After the town council meeting Mr Roache told the Mayo Advertiser they will be continuing with their strong campaign to have the North Western Regional Fisheries Board retained.