Historically, salmon catches were influenced by stock abundance, weather, oceanic conditions and socio-economic changes such as famine, war, tax and population demand. More recently, the availability of cheaper food, alternative lifestyles and the substitution of wild salmon with farmed, have all played a part in determining the Irish catch. In addition, catches may be governed by rule changes that are designed to influence fishing effort. If stocks fall, restrictions are generally put in place to assist recovery, while in situations of abundance fishing pressure is allowed to increase with a relaxation of controls. Observance and enforcement of fishing regulations may also vary at a national or international level.
Prior to 2001, Irish commercial catch statistics were compiled from the annual returns of licensed salmon dealers, while the recreational catch was collected by Inspectors of the Fisheries Boards through the efforts of private fisheries and local angling clubs. In 2001, the carcass tagging and logbook scheme was developed and introduced by the Marine Institute and the Inland Fisheries Ireland. Administered by Inland Fisheries Ireland, this new scheme has improved dramatically the quality of information to give a more accurate account of actual catches by each sector of the industry.
Scientists must assess historical and current catch data in the full knowledge of the environment in which the information was generated. The role of scientists at the Marine Institute is to analyse and interpret short and long term trends in national and international catch statistics, develop processes and mathematical models to estimate exploitation rates and survival to spawn, and aid the development of appropriate “Conservation Limits” to manage the resource in a way which ensures salmon survival and sustainable fisheries.
Entering 2007, the Irish salmon fishery will have changed dramatically with the ending of mixed stock fishing at sea and curtailment of other forms of fishing both commercial and recreational in a bid to restore salmon stocks in rivers not reaching their conservation limit.
Draft Netting Drift Netting
North Atlantic Salmon catch trends
The decline in the catch of Irish salmon is reflected in the overall catch of salmon in the entire North Atlantic. Due to the seriousness of the situation, many countries have eliminated or significantly reduced their interceptory net fisheries (Norway, Canada, Scotland, England, Wales). Similarly, quotas in the mixed stocks fisheries regulated by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) which take salmon of Irish origin have either not been fished (Faroes) or reduced substantially to allow only small scale subsistence fishing by local Inuit communities (West Greenland).
Irish salmon feeding grounds at West Greenland