Ireland’s fisheries industry is worth an estimated €800m annually, so it’s high time officials started to accurately count salmon, trout and grilse.
A new fish counter facility opened today (29 May) in Co Donegal, with several key species now monitored at the designated spring salmon fishery on the River Lackagh.
Created by Inland Fisheries Ireland, the new site will monitor spring salmon, grilse (a salmon that has returned to fresh water after a single winter at sea) and sea trout, compiling key data for stocks in Lough Beagh and Glenveagh National Park.
Financed through Inland Fisheries Ireland’s salmon conservation fund, the organisers call it a major infrastructural project, with the building of a crump weir, Logie fish counter and an access road to the Lackagh River at Creeslough all included.
It is hoped that we will now be able to access verifiable, accurate data on the size, duration and timing of fish migration through the fishery.
This is the second such development in the last five weeks, with a River Erriff study, backed by EU funding, revealed in late April.
Catching, tagging and monitoring of juvenile salmon (smolts) in the area is now logged online, to allow more people to keep track of what’s flowing up and down the Erriff.
The Co Mayo study saw researchers catch juvenile salmon in traps in the Black River, a tributary of Erriff, before attaching sensors to them and releasing them back into the wild.
The Erriff is one of the premier salmon fishing rivers in Ireland, and its smolt run typically occurs over six weeks during April and May.
But this new Lackagh counter is a far bigger undertaking and came about following years of significant change in the region.
In 2007, the salmon fishery there was shut following a dramatic drop in fish stocks – below the conservation limit.
This changed in the following years, with a 2013 survey finding numbers had bounced back. The new counter, so, will add to the national index counters, representing the first ever to be situated on the northern coast of Donegal.
“This fish counter provides real-time data on fish stocks in the fishery and allows us to adapt to changing stock levels,” said Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland.
“This is crucial both from a conservation and economic viewpoint, as this fishery contains valuable wild fish populations.
“I would like to acknowledge all our partners in this project who recognised the importance of this project and worked with us to deliver this facility for the local area.”
As for the Erriff project, its success will be seen internationally, with the data helping scientists to understand the survival rates of salmon smolts during their migration through the lower parts of rivers, estuaries and coastal areas.
It will also provide information on smolt-run timing and migration behaviour.
“We look forward to determining more about the smolts once they have been tagged by following their migration journey,” said Gallagher.
“As we are working with partners in Northern Ireland, England, Spain and Denmark, we can also learn from the data gathered in their regions.
“Ultimately, this information will inform our work in the area of salmon conservation, which will prove invaluable to Ireland’s fisheries resource in the long term.”