A meeting of the Liaison Group of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards
At a meeting of the Liaison Group of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards held in Inagh Lodge Hotel, Connemara , the group:-
* Expressed serious concern at the poor quality of salmon farm management reported in the Prime Time programme last week.
* Decided to strongly advise the Minister to take immediate positive action to ensure this poor husbandry practice is stopped.
* Decided to request the Minister to act on the monitoring advice provided by the Marine Institute (MI) relating to poor lice management on salmon farms, particularly during the critical period of February to May. The group were emphatic that real, effective and punitive sanctions must be taken particularly against those who breach Department protocols and conditions of their licences.
* Breaches of protocol levels in particular in relation to sea lice levels are particularly serious in light of the fact that fishery boards regard the existing protocol levels for live infestation to be far too lenient.
* Noted the statements made by Bord Iascaigh Mhara in the Prime Time programme, which were clearly at variance with the results of the Marine Institute’s monitoring and reporting to the Department. The Group decided to request that BIM work more closely with the M.I. and the Fisheries Boards to ensure they are fully informed.
* The group expressed serious disappointment that the targeted effort and spending by the Fisheries Boards to address the sea trout decline had not been matched with good fish farm husbandry by salmon farmers. In the light of reduced exchequer funding to the Fisheries Boards it was decided that no further funding could be justified by the Fisheries Boards to this programme in the absence of effective lice management on salmon farms, particularly during the February to May period and until the Department took action against the farmers who do not meet the required standards.
* The Group reluctantly decided that if positive action is not taken, the only other choice would be to report the issue to the European Union (EU) and to request the EU to declare sea trout in the affected areas an endangered species.
* The Group was somewhat concerned at the approach of the Marine Institute to the matter of possible impacts of lice on salmon smolts in view of the findings in Norway. The group was of the view that in the absence of a properly funded research programme being undertaken in Ireland, the Minister should adopt the precautionary approach in the case of salmon.
* The Group fully endorsed the Action Plan for Sustainable Management and Development of Salmon Aquaculture and Sea Trout Fisheries developed by the Fisheries Boards and submitted to the Minister in February 2001. The Group considered that this Action Plan provided the best model to address the twin aims of sustainable management of sea trout fisheries and aquaculture into the future. They requested the Minister to support this Plan and oversee its implementation.
* It was also agreed that enforcement of aquaculture regulations and licence conditions was essential and that this function should be transferred to fisheries boards who have the necessary expertise in the enforcement of fisheries laws.
* The Group emphasised the vital importance of the Central Fisheries Board’s scientific role in the protection of fisheries and the environment, and it totally rejected any question of transferring this function to any other body.
The Liaison Group of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards consists of the Chairpersons, Chief Executive Officers and some Board members of all eight Fisheries Boards. The Central and Regional Fisheries Boards have statutory responsibility for the protection and development of inland fisheries including salmon and sea trout.
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