The Chief Executive of Inland Fisheries Ireland Dr Ciarán Byrne has expressed ‘serious concern’ over the decline in the number of wild salmon returning to spawn in Irish rivers.
Dr Byrne made his comments in light of a Scottish Government report signalling that the survival of wild salmon is at ‘crisis point’.
The number of wild salmon caught in Scotland last year was at the lowest point since Scottish records were first compiled.
"The findings in Scotland are in no way a surprise to us," says the Chief Executive of IFI.
"All of the stock on the south east side of the Atlantic; Ireland, UK, France and even Portugal and Spain are under severe pressure," he said.
The number of salmon returning to spawn in Ireland reached a high point in the mid-1970s, about 1.6 million.
Currently, that return is about 250,000-300,000 salmon per year.
In the past, up to 30% of smolts (young salmon) leaving Irish rivers returned to spawn. In recent years that figure fell to 3 or 4%.
Dr Byrne says that the "arrow has gone on a downward trajectory in the past 45 years."
He added that an awful lot of fish are dying at sea.
The Chief Executive of IFI believes that there is good data available on the status of salmon in Ireland.
"We use the phrase ‘controlling the controllable’. We can improve our water quality, predation, barriers and spawning beds. The real solution for us at present is to try and maximise the number of salmon smolts (young salmon) going out so we have the best chance in the future," he said.
He also added that salmon lice from fish farms can also pose a threat to wild salmon.
The Costello and Fermoyle Fishery in Connemara is one of 43 ‘open fisheries’ in Ireland where anglers are permitted to catch and keep salmon.
Brian Curran, manager of the Fishery says the number of tourist anglers has declined substantially over the years.
"This fishery used to employ about 20 people during the summer months, small farmers that acted as gillies. They were employed from June to September," he added.
Two people are now employed at the fishery.
Brian Curran attributes the declining salmon stock to a myriad of factors at sea.
"We are losing the salmon at sea. Some of reasons include; overfishing, increased acidification of the water, climate change has resulted in currents moving further north so that smolts are in danger of starvation because they’re unable to get to their food source.
There are a variety of factors that have resulted in our wild salmon stocks declining substantially. They (wild salmon levels) are at crisis point," he added.