Protesting Feale fishermen told to the sling their hook

man holding a fishnet
Photo: Fredrik Öhlander/Unsplash.

ANGRY fishermen, who have been refused a licence to fish for salmon, held a protest at the Limerick HQ of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) this week demanding better accounting of fish numbers.

Patrick Peril, a Shannon River fisherman from Coonagh, and one of the organisers of the protest, told the Limerick Post that the protesters believe the IFI is acting on flawed information.

“Some these boats have been without a licence to catch any fish for four years and are now looking at five years,” he said.

“We realise the fish numbers are down in some areas and we are willing to respect that because we want there to be salmon to fish in the future, but the counts the IFI are using are not accurate.”

Mr Peril is himself a former Fisheries employee and member of the National Salmon Commission.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Mr Peril and other boat owners across the country have individually queried the results returned by fish counters in the rivers and have been told on many occasions that the counters are not functioning following events such as a flood or damage from floating debris.

Now, net fishermen on the Shannon Estuary and the Feale/Cashen rivers are being denied a licence on the grounds that stocks are too low.

“The system they are using to count fish is not working. Fishermen see the numbers for themselves and they say the official counts are wrong,” Mr Peril claimed.

In response to the protesters’ concerns, a spokesman for IFI told the Limerick Post that the body “regrettably cannot re-open commercial fishing on the River Feale currently, as the numbers of salmon available to harvest remains critically low”.

“IFI understands the concerns and frustrations of the Feale and Cashen Fishing Group. However, the decision is based on robust, annual, scientific evidence.

“Research data shows the river remains very close to its conservation limit for salmon – the numbers required to maintain a sustainable population – and has not had a useable harvestable surplus for many years.

“Wild salmon numbers returning in Ireland each year have been in steep decline for decades, and IFI must safeguard existing stocks to ensure their survival.

“The River Feale opened for salmon angling on a catch-and-release-only basis for the 2023 season, but has been closed to commercial draft net fishing since 2018.

The IFI said that limiting the River Feale to catch-and-release only is based on advice from TEGOS (the independent Technical Expert Group on Salmon) and “follows international best practice as advised by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea”.