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’Disaster’ for Mayo fisherman

Eamonn Dixon of Belmullet with fellow fishermen and family out of Broadhaven hold a salmon drift net - the cause of the trouble
FISHERMAN Eamonn Dixon of Belmullet with fellow fishermen and family out of Broadhaven hold a salmon drift net - the cause of the trouble.

‘Disaster’ for Mayo fisherman

Anton McNulty

FISHERMEN in Mayo have reacted angrily to the recommendations of the Independent Salmon Group calling for a complete ban on drift netting for salmon and said they will fight them under every circumstance.
The report which was published last week warns that radical measures are necessary to halt ‘the catastrophic decline of Irish salmon stocks’ and recommended a complete ban cessation of drift net fishing and mixed stock fishing from 2007. The Minister of the Marine, Noel Dempsey, TD said the Government will act on the recommendations and a €30 million fund is proposed to compensate the drift net fishermen.
The proposals have been described as a disaster by fishermen who claimed up to 300 fishermen in Mayo employed during the season will lose their jobs. Erris based fisherman Eamon Dixon said the fishermen made upteem proposals to the Minister and described the committee he set to review drift net fishing as a waste of time.
They vowed to fight the recommendations and are planning to march on the Dáil today [Wednesday] to show their disgust at the situation. He said the Government did not care about rural communities and if there was a voluntary buy-out it would reduce the licenses by three quarters.
“We are the only people who have done anything for the conservation of salmon. In 1997 we accepted the proposals to cut the number of fishing days from six to four and the hours from 24 hours to 18 hours. We also took a six mile cut in distance out to sea where we are allowed to fish. The EU may have asked for a reduction in fishing but they never looked for a complete cessation.
“A voluntary buyout would make everyone happy from Malin Head to Mizen Head. It has to be voluntary because there are 850 licenses in the country and a survey carried out among all the fishermen revealed if there was a substantial buyout put on the table only 200 would remain. It is well known that the fish in the three main rivers in Mayo is well above what it was three or four years ago,” he said.
For many fishermen they feel a natural resource is being privatised and they fear any return of commercial fishing of salmon will be moved from drift net fishermen to the anglers. Eamon Dixon called any decision to move commercial fishing to anglers as a joke because drift net fishermen rely on salmon fishing for their livelihood while for anglers it is only a pastime.
“The scientists have called for a ban on mix stock fishing saying we are catching the salmon going to Kerry and they are catching the salmon going to Waterford but the percentage caught would only be about two percent. If that’s the case fishing should be banned in 90 percent of the rivers as mix stock fishing occurs in angling as well as sea and it is too small a percentage to just ban drift net fishing,” he claimed.
The North Western Fisheries Committee who oversee fishing in Mayo released a statement saying it would not be appropriate to comment on the situation until after their next scheduled meeting.