SALMON drift-net fishermen have vowed that they will stay united and will not give up their livelihood until the compensation package on offer has been considerably increased.
Fishermen from Achill and other regions in Mayo voiced their anger at a meeting in the Achill Sound Hotel last Friday night, saying that their livelihood was being destroyed while anglers were getting away scot-free. Fishermen are angry that they have continuously decreased their catch quota for the last five years and will now receive only €23 per salmon. This means they will receive a compensation package of only €15,000, which was described as ‘an insult’ and not taking into account the crew of the boat.
The meeting was well-attended by fishermen and politicians alike, all of whom expressed dismay at the way fishermen have been treated for the last number of years. It was agreed that a united front among fishermen, from Kerry to Donegal, was needed to put pressure on the Government.
Martin Kilbane, who chaired the meeting, said the fishermen had undertaken to reduce their quotas to help restore salmon stocks and because of that they were now losing out on the compensation package.
“In this area for the last five years we have been on quotas and have not been allowed to increase our catch. Anybody who started off with a quota of 100 ended up with 50 and if they caught any more they were likely to be arrested. We were at a big disadvantage and maybe it was our own fault that we did not raise our voices. The fishery board and the Government knew what they were doing, they knew this day was coming, while we did not,” he said.
A number of fishermen said that the reason the legislation had been passed was because the anglers represented more votes than the drift-net fishermen and they had the power to influence Government. It is understood that legal action will be taken against the Government and fishermen are confident they can win the case. A number of demonstrations are planned, which will include the larger mackerel fishermen who feel there livelihood will be threatened in the future.
Cllr Micheál McNamara told the meeting that the Minister for the Marine, Noel Dempsey TD had not listened to the fishing communities and because the anglers had power and influence, nobody was going to change the decision to ban drift-net fishing, which he felt was wrong.
“If the fishing community are not united nothing is going to happen,” said Cllr McNamara. “It has to come from the top, similar to the IFA, where there is just one voice hammering Brown and Dempsey and see what happens. This is one man’s livelihood while it is another man’s leisure activity. It is grossly unfair that people have their livelihood taken away while others are allowed to catch the salmon they should be catching.”
Cllr Michael Holmes said if there was enough noise made by the fishing community throughout the country there would be a change of heart from the Government in terms of compensation and, because it was an election year. it was never a better time to achieve that.
Cllr Frank Chambers said he learned that the compensation package was going to be dealt with by the Department very soon and the fishermen needed to work quickly to try and maximise the benefit for the fishermen. Dr Jerry Cowley TD said the package was not fair because so much already has been given up by the fishermen and they had to be prepared to fight to get an adequate compensation package.