Salmon Watch Ireland’s proposals

A policy framework for reversing the decline

As noted earlier, the major threat to salmon stocks comes from marine mortality with a significant threat also in freshwater.  There is precious little we can do to reverse trends in oceanic conditions, even in the longer term. We can assume, therefore, that return rates of 3-5% of migrating smolts is the very best we will achieve in any foreseeable future.

As an overall objective for salmon management policy, therefore, SWIRL proposes that Ireland adopt one of the main conclusions of the 2011 Salmon Summit as its key policy focus:  

More and Stronger smolts

‘The rational management approach is to redouble efforts to address factors impacting on productivity to ensure that ….salmon rivers….produce the maximum number of healthy wild salmon smolts’.

The main factors that impact on the productivity of our rivers and which are amenable to management efforts by the State, anglers and fishery owners and fishery managers are:

  • The extent and quality of the freshwater habitat;
  • Barriers to migration in rivers;
  • The level of exploitation of salmon by the recreational and commercial fisheries;
  • Open cage salmon farming and other activities in the in-shore environment which impact on migrating salmon, especially juveniles.  
  • Restocking
  • Protection services in freshwater and at sea;
  • Constructive, co-operative efforts by agencies of the State and the private and voluntary sector to address issues afflicting salmon and, in particular, the engagement of anglers, clubs and their national federations in such efforts;
  • International co-operation at governmental and non-governmental levels through NASCO and other agencies to achieve action on such issues as the continuation of restrictions on the Greenland and Faroese salmon fisheries, illegal exploitation on the high seas and by catches of juvenile and adult salmon in pelagic fisheries.

Having regard to the alarming current and projected state of Irish salmon stocks and the very limited instruments available for reversing it SWIRL supports the following measures:


  • Government Approach and International Co-operation

    SWIRL advocates the bringing under the aegis of one government department all those activities which impinge on environmental protection and the maintenance of biodiversity. SWIRL supports engagement with the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation with a focus on international action on salmon farming and research into by-catch and the implementation of mitigation measures.

  • Protection and Co-operation

    SWIRL urges the government to give priority to and accelerate the bringing up to date of fisheries legislation to enable the more effective use of the protection resources of IFI.

  • Predation of Salmonids

    Predation of salmonids, by birds and mammals in rivers, estuaries and on the high seas appears to be on the increase although data as to the abundance of predators and the significance of their impact is patchy.  The anecdotal evidence, especially from rivers and estuaries, is hard to ignore, however. Salmon Watch Ireland is acutely aware […]

  • Removal of Redundant River Barriers to Migration

    Salmon Watch Ireland is committed to addressing the issue of man made barriers to migration for Atlantic salmon and sea trout. It would also be our intention to support designs that facilitate all fish migration as a functioning biodiverse ecosystem is necessary to facilitate the optimum production of salmonid juveniles in freshwater.

  • Salmon Conservation Fund

    The SCF funds a wide range of activities including the direct operating costs of IFI’s scientifically important fry surveys of salmon systems and numerous conservation projects focused on, but not exclusively confined to, systems where salmon stocks are below their conservation limits.

  • Commercial and Recreational Exploitation

    Commercial and recreational exploitation must be examined against the background of falling stock level. SWIRL supports the elimination of all commercial net fisheries, with appropriate compensation of those affected and the reduction of exploitation by all other means.

  • Habitat preservation, management and water quality in a changing climate

    The projected changes in climate and indeed the recent observed conditions both in freshwater and in the marine environment will certainly provide Atlantic salmon and sea trout with a number of challenges which may prove difficult to overcome. The adaptation to a changing climate of salmonids is best served by wild fish naturally propagated in habitat which mitigates the extreme elements of climate change.

  • Conservation Hatcheries Salmon

    Salmon Watch Ireland is broadly supportive of conservation hatcheries but only where scientific and natural circumstances dictate. Due to the decline of returning adults caused by poor survival at sea, an increasing number of catchments are not achieving their conservation limit and consequently juvenile stocks are being negatively affected. In these circumstances Salmon Watch Ireland is supportive of an intervention by the use of a conservation hatchery or other methods to artificially boost numbers of juveniles.

  • Salmon Aquaculture Industry

    The advent of salmon farming in the late 1980’s in Ireland gave rise to much debate in regard to the negative effects that this new type of practice might mean for our coastal marine environment. Unfortunately the most visible consequence was observed almost immediately in that a strange and unexpected premature sea trout migration back to freshwater took place in areas where salmon farming was being carried out. These fish were early returnees and within a few weeks of their migration as smolts or kelts they had returned in large numbers with varying degrees of injury and infection. Salmon Watch Ireland is committed to protect wild salmonids from salmon farming at sea and to actively change the views of government.