A CATCH and release system could soon become a reality for fishermen on the Mourne, as the Loughs Agency announces a public consultation on managing dwindling salmon stocks.
The consultation, which follows a recent conference at the Mellon Country Hotel organised through the Loughs Agency, in partnership with the Foyle Association of Salmon and Trout Anglers (FASTA), has not yet been given an estimated time of commencement but concerns are it should take place as a matter of urgency.
John McCartney, director of Conservation and Protection with Loughs Agency said, “We value the input and opinion of the public when reviewing our salmon management programme. I would encourage everyone to take time to consider and respond to the questions.”
However, local angler and spokesperson for FASTA, Barney Winters says that unless attitudes change, then the Foyle system could see a collapse similar to that afflicting salmon stocks in Scotland.
“At this moment in time, salmon stocks are dangerously low, although, not so bad in comparison to other areas,” he stated. “But it’s at a point where things really need to happen.
“People there were thinking that they might see catch and release introduced and it might have to happen because stocks are so low. But all other alternatives must be looked at.
“The sad fact is that salmon levels are so low on the Finn that we already have catch and release. They are dangerously low on the Mourne.
“So many salmon have to go up the river so that the returning stock are sufficient to keep stock on a sustainable level.”
According to the local angling expert, legislation is already in place which would initiate the implementation of catch and release, if such a system is deemed necessary.
“It would tick off anglers if it’s introduced, there’s no doubt,” Mr Winters continued. “And we would see a big decline in the number of anglers. There is the argument that what is happening on the rivers isn’t affecting stock and that mortality at sea has increased dramatically.
“But the reality is, anglers really do need to get involved. We need to do our best here…
“It might cause pain not being able to take fish for a while but we’re trying to look after the stocks for future generations. We’ve a responsibility so that our kids and their kids will be able to fish too.”