NASCO throws Lifeline to Western Atlantic Salmon!

The Irish Republic has given a commitment to abide by scientific advice and
only fish commercially for salmon stocks which are above

The Irish Republic has given a commitment to abide by scientific advice and only fish commercially for salmon stocks which are above their conservation limit and targeted in estuaries and rivers. The new policy will start in 2007, so closing the damaging Irish coastal drift net fishery.

This statement was given by Alan Gray, Head of the EU Delegation at the annual meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), held in Saariselka, Lapland (Northern Finland) on Thursday, 8 June, and was included in the official record of the meeting.

The EU’s statement brings further hope that the mixed stock drift net fishery operated in the Republic’s coastal waters, which intercepts fish from England, Wales and SW Scotland as well as many other European rivers struggling to re-establish salmon populations, is at last coming to a close, following years of lobbying by a wide range of Non Government Organisations (NGOs) from Ireland and all the other salmon-producing nations affiliated to NASCO.

The NGOs enjoyed their greatest influence in the 23 year history of NASCO. Accepted as a NASCO partner for the first time, with their Chairman, Chris Poupard (former S&TA Director), sitting at the top table alongside Heads of Delegation from all the NASCO Parties, the NGOs had a full input to all the issues discussed at the meeting.

The NASCO NGOs, including S&TA, also called for all other mixed stock fisheries still operated within the UK to be closed. The NGOs stated that the efficient management of salmon populations can only be effected on single stocks from individual rivers. All parties have signed the NASCO resolution to end mixed stock fisheries within their coastal waters, and they should now stand by that commitment.

Apart from the Irish drift nets, the most important issue debated was that of Implementation Plans, whereby all Parties will produce programmes of measures to manage and conserve salmon stocks within their jurisdiction. These plans will then be reviewed by an ad hoc group, which will include representatives from the NGOs, to monitor progress on an annual basis, thereby overcoming the accusation that NASCO Parties could renege on management commitments without fear of retribution at following meetings.

S&TA Director Paul Knight, who was attending his fifth annual NASCO meeting, said, “there was a real feeling this year that NASCO was entering a new, transparent working atmosphere, with the NGOs at last being accepted as partners in the fight to improve salmon stocks throughout the Northern hemisphere. The EU commitment to closing the Irish drift net fishery from 2007 was an indication of a heightened willingness to action rather than just talk, and we look forward to the Parties’ Implementation Plans carrying this commitment to all the issues currently jeopardising salmon populations.”

NASCO’s SALSEA project, which looks to research salmon in the marine stage of their life, will form the bedrock of scientific work for the future. This is the vision of NASCO President, Ken Whelan, and follows on the successful voyages undertaken by Scottish and Norwegian research vessels in 2005, carrying out work part-funded by the UK NGO, the Atlantic Salmon Trust. The NASCO Board pledged funds for further SALSEA research, and the NGOs agreed to work closely with the Parties in identifying further funding streams for future work.