Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary is calling for enhanced co-ordination of organisations like Inland Fisheries Ireland, Tourism and Fáilte Ireland, the OPW, and angling and fishing groups in Northern Ireland to support, educate, and enhance fishing communities across the country. Deputy Calleary wants to see the fish stocks in our rivers and seas replenished to levels which would have been commonplace in previous decades and wants Minister Michael Creed to engage with the IFI to find out what resources it needs to function more proactively.
He said: “According to Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, and Inland Fisheries Ireland, Ballina is the salmon capital of Ireland, but anyone living in the town will realise that salmon stocks in the river Moy are far from what they used to be and the future of the fishing industry here is now under threat. This is a sector which is worth €836m with more than 11,000 people employed within it, but the Government does not appear to grasp the gravity of the challenge facing it.
“Inland Fisheries Ireland is a 26 county organisation – this needs to change. We need an all-island body to carry out research on our salmon stocks and find out what is happening. We must have an honest conversation about what is going on with our fish stocks at sea and within our rivers. The focus is always within the rivers, but unless we have a discussion on a cross-state basis about the sea, we will not get the full answer.
“The fishing industry is a huge tourism and culinary draw and it is ridiculous that we cannot sell Moy salmon, even for a few weeks a year. It is inconceivable that someone would travel to Belgium and not be able to buy Belgian chocolate, or go to France and not be able to get French cheese. Salmon is one of our national dishes and we cannot sell Moy salmon. We should be allowed to explore the option of selling Moy salmon for a limited period every year and include a levy which would go back into managing and protecting the river so that we continue to safeguard the supply. The lands could be limited to restaurants and local angling associations who respect the river and respect the need for a healthy river.
“Mayo and the west has built a solid reputation for angling, fishing, and food tourism and we should be building on this rather than supressing it. Our rivers are a vital natural resource and we have a responsibility to protect and enrich them. A relatively small investment in IFI could produce a very significant return considering its ability to promote Ireland as an angling destination. It could invest in facilities along rivers to make them more angler friendly, including facilities for disabled anglers, children, and women who wish to fish. There is unlimited potential for IFI but we need the political will to ensure that these proposals can be implemented.”