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A new study published this month by the scientific journal Nature reveals the marine migration route of Atlantic salmon in the North Atlantic, including Irish salmon.

The study in Nature’s open-access Scientific Reports, led by the Arctic University of Norway, comprises cooperative research study by 10 universities and institutions across Europe, including Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

It involved tagging 204 salmon kelts with satellite tags across seven European countries and the east coast of North America — including salmon from the Barrow, Nore, Suir and Blackwater rivers in Ireland — and tracked them during their oceanic migration.

Salmon travelled to oceanic fronts, but with specific patterns, the study says. Norwegian and Danish salmon rapidly migrate north and north-west toward the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Svalbard. In contrast, Irish salmon migrated primarily westward towards south and east Greenland.

Despite the variation in migration patterns among populations, most individual salmon migrated to polar ocean frontal areas, the study says.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Paddy Gargan of IFI, says: “As we know, water temperatures have increased in the north Atlantic over the last few decades. This new research is suggesting that this type of climate change may have greater impact on salmon populations originating further south, like Ireland.

Patrick Gargan is a senior research officer with Inland Fisheries IrelandPatrick Gargan is a senior research officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland

“This is because distances and time required to travel to feeding areas will increase if the boundary between Atlantic and Arctic waters move northward because of ocean warming.”

The study found that salmon released further south tended to cover longer migration distances, with a straight-line distance tracked as far as 2,400km for one salmon tagged from the River Suir.

Tagged salmon spent 80% of their time foraging at the surface and performed occasional dives of up to 870m.

Overall, populations closest in proximity tended to converge in their oceanic feeding area, but taken together the salmon populations exploit a very large part of the ocean.

Given that Atlantic salmon from different geographic locations feed in distinct areas at sea, they experience different temperature regimes. For example, Irish salmon experienced much warmer temperatures, ranging from 5 to 16°C, than Norwegian and Danish salmon which experienced temperatures ranging from 0 to 11°C.

These differences not only contribute to variation in growth and survival across populations, but also are likely to affect Atlantic salmon populations differently with changing climate.

Map from the study showing that tagged Irish salmon primarily migrated westward towards east GreenlandMap from the study showing that tagged Irish salmon primarily migrated westward towards east Greenland

Southernmost populations, like those of Ireland, are more at risk than northernmost populations as migration distances are likely to become longer, or more variable, thereby decreasing feeding time, with important consequences for the marine survival and productivity of different populations.

Taken together, these findings suggest that a common marine factor responsible for the decline in Atlantic salmon is unlikely. Importantly, this means conservation efforts should be focused locally, such as during the freshwater phase.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of research with IFI, explains why the State agency was keen to support the study: “Although the Atlantic salmon is one of the world’s most studied fish, detailed knowledge of its migration route at sea has been limited until now.

“This important large-scale study highlights the vulnerability of salmon populations to climate change and emphasises the need for continued conservation, to protect Atlantic salmon and its habitats.”

The full study — Redefining the oceanic distribution of Atlantic salmon — can be found at Nature.com

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is appealing to the farming community to continue to be vigilant and to play their part in protecting waterways from the threat of agricultural pollution.

The call comes following the conviction of Corrib Farming Ltd, which permitted agricultural effluent to enter the Suileen River, a tributary of the Clare River in Co Galway.

While the advent of round bales has reduced the potential for pollution, IFI is warning that the continued use of silage pits can put rivers at risk.

Silage effluent is a highly toxic substance when it gets into rivers, starving the fish and invertebrate life of oxygen. When rivers are low in summertime, even a small leak can cause huge damage.

Maintenance of silage pits and slurry storage facilities is essential to ensure that leaks or overflows are not permitted.

As highlighted in the Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, farm effluent and slurry should only be spread responsibly when heavy rain is not forecast and never close to a watercourse.

Last Tuesday 8 June, at a hearing in Tuam District Court, Corrib Farming Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Fisheries Acts on 22 September 2020.

David Harrington, senior fisheries environmental officer with IFI, gave evidence to the court of tracing the source of a significant pollution event on the Suileen River back to a pipe emanating from the company’s farm in Tuam.

The initial report was made by a member of the public to IFI and upon investigation, heavy algal growth was found in the river. These were indicators of nutrient enrichment of the waterbody, covering approximately 4km downstream of the discharge point whereafter it enters the Clare River.

Water samples taken as part of the investigation confirmed that the farm discharge had caused water pollution of the Suileen River.

‘Silage effluent is a major pollutant if it enters a watercourse and can have severe and long-term consequences’

Although the court heard that the company had fully cooperated and undertaken to remedy the situation immediately, there was significant damage caused to the water quality of the Lough Corrib catchment.

Judge James Faughnan convicted Corrib Farming Ltd and directed that the company pay €1,000, not by way of a fine but towards restorative works on the Lough Corrib catchment, as well as laboratory expenses of €349.32 and legal costs of €800.

Patrick Gorman, Galway director in the Western River Basin District at IFI, said: “Having good water quality in our lakes and rivers is vital for healthy fish stocks and their habitats.

“We are appealing to farmers to take precautionary measures during the current silage season and when land-spreading to ensure watercourses are protected against harmful pollutants.

“Silage effluent is a major pollutant if it enters a watercourse and can have severe and long-term consequences. The increase in excessive nutrients drastically reduces the oxygen content in the water and can be the cause of major fish kills.

“To protect water quality within our fisheries, we are asking the farming community to continue to be vigilant and practise good farmyard management. Any member of the public can report suspected pollution directly to Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 24-hour confidential hotline on 1890 34 74 24.”

The Clare River is the largest tributary of Lough Corrib, a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which sees thousands of salmon and trout run the river to spawn every year.

It provides a valuable angling facility for local and tourist anglers, with six different angling clubs located along the river.

Patrick Gorman added: “Members of these angling clubs have invested heavily in recent years to improve spawning and nursery habitat for salmon and trout. They rely heavily on the environmental stewardship of local farmers to maintain the Clare River and ultimately Lough Corrib as top angling waterbodies for local and international anglers.”

Published in Angling

Angling clubs, groups and associations all over Ireland are from tomorrow (Friday 11 June) invited to apply for funding under Inland Fisheries Ireland’s 2021 Sponsorship Programme.

One of the main funding mechanisms of Inland Fisheries Ireland, the programme awarded funding to 87 angling events and initiatives across the country during 2019, resulting in an investment of €30,000 to support novice anglers and angling tourism in Ireland.

Due to public health guidelines around the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sponsorship Programme didn’t go ahead in 2020, but in 2019 it supported 45 angling competitions to showcase Ireland’s angling resource and contribution to local economies.

Over 800 anglers travelled from outside Ireland to participate in these competitions, such as the Lough Ree International Pike Classic and International Coarse Fishing Festivals (Longford/Roscommon), the Arvagh International Coarse Fishing Festival (Cavan) and the Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival (Wexford).

A total of 37 coaching and juvenile events, aimed at novice and young anglers with a view to increasing participation in the sport, along with five public awareness events and angling-related initiatives were supported in 2019.

In total, over 600 juvenile and novice anglers participated in these initiatives, which included a juvenile angling competition held by Killaloe Ballina and District Anglers (Offaly/Tipperary), Easter and summer Angling Camps for children organised by the Trout Angling Federation of Ireland (Cork) and a Youth Initiative Day - Ulster organised by the Irish Federation of Sea Angling (Donegal).

Eligible events and categories in the 2021 Inland Fisheries Ireland Sponsorship Programme are as follows:

  • Large international competitions held in Ireland which showcase Ireland’s angling resources and contribution to local economies, supporting jobs and businesses (maximum sponsorship available is €3,000 per event).
  • Novice angler events and training courses which increase participation in angling including funding of transport hire for participants to facilitate attendance at novice angler events. Minimum of 20 novice angler participants required (maximum sponsorship available is €500 per event or course).
  • Information dissemination or initiatives to promote fisheries awareness, conservation and protection of the inland fisheries and sea angling resource; promotion of angling as a key Irish tourism activity e.g. Production of high quality angling promotional videos, seminars, coaching, training or workshops (maximum sponsorship available is €1,000 per event).
  • Juvenile and minority angling teams representing Ireland at international events both home and abroad (maximum sponsorship available is €500 per team).

Initiatives which support novice anglers and sustainable angling tourism are “key priorities” for funding in 2021, according to Suzanne Campion, IFI’s head of business development.

“We are delighted to make financial support available in 2021 to support key priority projects and events that will support novice and junior anglers and help grow sustainable angling tourism here in Ireland.

“The past year has shown us all how important engaging in outdoor activities has been for people’s physical and mental wellbeing and the Sponsorship Programme has a focus on encouraging new and novice anglers to enjoy the outdoors more by participating in angling in a sustainable manner.

“In addition to supporting those who are holding a rod for the first time, we also have a unique opportunity to inform novice anglers about conservation and protection of our precious wild fisheries.

“As the deadline to apply under the Sponsorship Programme is Friday 25 June, we are encouraging all angling clubs, groups and associations to get in touch with us in Inland Fisheries Ireland and apply for funding through the programme.”

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is relying on the knowledge and experience as a ‘citizen scientist’ anglers in a new survey about less well-known fish species.

Some migratory fish species like salmon and lesser-known species such as shad and the extremely rare sturgeon, among others, are in decline in many European countries. These species spend much of their lifecycle at sea and periods in riverine habitats.

As part of the multinational European project DiadES, IFI and other project partners are assessing the recreational fishing interest in several of these species including shad, thin-lipped mullet, smelt and flounder via an online survey which will also record the economic benefits that the species support.

Dr William Roche, senior research officer at IFI, said: “We are urging anglers who fish for these species to participate in this online survey as it will help us get a more comprehensive view of these less common species in Irish waters.

“In this way we can contribute to providing better information to inform future policy and management of these species, and the economic, social and cultural activities associated with them.”

Future predictions suggest that some of these species will see northward and southward changes in distribution under climate change scenarios, IFI says.

This may increase or decrease their availability to recreational fishing and the economic benefits they bring to businesses in local areas, as well as the enjoyment and associated health and social benefits for fishers.

The online survey consists of questions about fish-catching activities and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

In Ireland the DiadES case study area comprises the Suir, Nore and Barrow Rivers and the Waterford Harbour catchment but IFI is also seeking details on the named fish species generally within Ireland.

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Dublin Angling Initiative is calling on youth clubs, community groups and schools in the Greater Dublin Area to take part in its 2021 fishing programme.

The initiative aims to promote, develop and improve angling among children and young people. In 2021, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is looking for interested parties for the summer, autumn and winter months to take part in the programme.

In 2019, over 400 children and young people took part in the fishing programme which caters for anyone interested in angling, from the complete novice to the more advanced angler with exposure given to each of the different types of fishing.

Children and young people are offered an opportunity to take fishing lessons, participate in fishing trips and enjoy family fishing days.

In addition to practical fishing exercises, the initiative offers fishing presentations and tours providing an insight into fish, their habitat, conservation measures and education regarding local fishing areas.

‘Fishing is a pastime which can be enjoyed at any age or ability’

The Dublin Angling Initiative has seen thousands of young people participate over the past 20 years, resulting in the establishment of many new fishing clubs.

Brian Beckett, director of the Eastern River Basin District, said: “We are calling on youth clubs, community groups as well as national and secondary schools who would like to try out a new hobby.

“Fishing is a pastime which can be enjoyed at any age or ability. The Dublin Angling initiative introduces young people to the pursuit, giving access to fishing equipment, guidance around how and where to fish and builds awareness about the importance of protecting and conserving our fisheries resource and the broader aquatic environment.

“Along with learning a new skill there are the additional health and wellbeing benefits of taking part in an outdoor activity and disconnecting from the online world. We are opening our call for youth clubs to book in for this year to get an opportunity to take part in this unique initiative.”

The 2021 Dublin Angling Initiative will include coarse, sea and game angling along with educational trips, where COVID-19 public health guidelines allow. Interested groups should contact by email [email protected] or apply online.

Dublin Angling Initiative 2021 launch poster

Published in Angling

Reports have emerged of wild salmon showing signs of red skin disease in three provinces, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Low incidences of red skin disease (RSD) were first documented in 2019 in several European salmon stocks. In Ireland last year suspected incidences of RSD were reported in 113 salmon from 12 rivers throughout the country.

The majority of these reports were in June and July with only occasional incidences reported prior to and after this time.

Salmon affected by RSD have a characteristic red-spotted rash on their underbelly and may appear lethargic or moribund. The rash can either be localised or extend along some or most the length of the fish.

As the disease progresses, skin lesions, signs of bleeding and skins ulcers can develop primarily along the belly area and extend to the head and tail. Secondary fungal infection can further develop which may ultimately result in death of the salmon.

A salmon from the River Corrib showing early signs of the disease in 2019 | Credit: IFIA salmon from the River Corrib showing early signs of the disease in 2019 | Credit: IFI

The latest reports involve small numbers of individual fresh-run wild salmon encountered in the River Deel, in the Moy Catchment in Co Mayo and in the River Boyne.

IFI staff are continuing to liaise with the Fish Health Unit in the Marine Institute and international colleagues to monitor and respond to the situation.

Anglers and fishery owners are asked to report any incidences of salmon with signs of RSD to IFI to help determine the occurrence of the disease nationally.

Fishers who capture such salmon are advised to follow normal biosecurity procedures and disinfect tackle, waders and equipment. Until the cause of the disease has been determined and the risk of spreading the disease established, affected salmon should not be removed from the water.

IFI is appealing to anglers to forward any reports of salmon with signs of RSD along with photographs and an estimate of fish weight to [email protected] or on IFI’s 24-hour confidential hotline number at 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24.

Published in Angling

One overall winner and five runners-up have been selected in the ‘My Favourite Fishing Place’ national photo competition that was run as part of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Go Fishing Week 2021.

Entries were received from anglers across Ireland and the UK under the title ‘My Favourite Fishing Place’, with their photos showing where people love to fish and some of the most beautiful scenic fishing locations Ireland has to offer.

The overall winner is Michael Brazendale from England whose favourite fishing spot is Derrynane Beach, Co Kerry, represented in a breathtaking panorama. He receives €100 worth of angling tackle.

Panorama of Derrynane Beach by overall winner Michael BrazendalePanorama of Derrynane Beach by overall winner Michael Brazendale

Runners-up prizes are awarded to Christin Breuker, Danijel Kucan, Enda Fields, Lukasz Ryz and Maurice Neill. The entries will be shared across IFI’s social media platforms over the coming weeks.

Go Fishing Week 2021 took place from Sunday 25 April to Monday 3 May with a packed nine days of webinars, videos, social media content and competitions.

Published in Angling

A Cork man has been jailed for four months on three charges including assault on a fisheries officer.

Jason Callaghan, with an address on Lower Barrack Street, was convicted by Judge Brian O’Shea at a special sitting of Midleton District Court on Tuesday 27 April.

The court was told how officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) had observed Callaghan illegally fishing with two other men in the Owenacurra River at the Cork Road Bridge in Midleton on the afternoon of Sunday 21 July 2019.

At the time, the river was closed to angling for the protection and conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks.

The court heard Callaghan fled the scene when approached by fisheries officers. He was then pursued from the river to the town centre where he assaulted a fisheries officer with the metal end of a fishing rod, injuring the officer and causing him to fall to the ground.

The assault was witnessed by a plain-clothes garda attending the incident. The garda also gave evidence during the hearing which lasted for several hours.

Judge O’Shea fined Callaghan €500, handing him an additional two-month custodial sentence for use of a strokehaul. Callaghan was further convicted of impeding an authorised officer and was given a four-month custodial sentence for assaulting an authorised officer, to run concurrent with the two-month sentence.

Callaghan, who had previous fisheries convictions, fully contested the charges and gave evidence to the court.

Kieran Ryan of Bishopstown and Calvin Morrissey of Carrignavar, who had been illegally fishing with Callaghan, were also convicted. Ryan received a two-month custodial sentence for use of a strokehaul and one month for impeding an authorised officer. Morrissey was convicted of use of a strokehaul and impeding an authorised officer and fined €500 on both counts.

All the charges were brought under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959.

Judge O’Shea rejected submissions from legal representatives for the three accused and stated that Callaghan had told lies in the witness box which he “expressly rejected”. He noted that there was “no hint of an apology and no remorse shown” by Callaghan or his co-defendants.

Sean Long, director of the South Western River Basin District, said: “The safety of our fisheries officers is of utmost importance to IFI. This was a reckless assault on an officer in broad daylight on a busy street which could have had significant consequences for a man simply trying to carry out his job.

“Thankfully, our staff member was back at work after a couple of days and able to continue protecting our fisheries resource.

“I hope these custodial sentences will give would-be offenders pause for thought. An assault on a fisheries officer is a severe matter and we will continue to prosecute offenders without exception.”

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is to lead on the Annacotty weir fish passage improvement project, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has announced.

Annacotty Weir on the lower Mulkear River outside Limerick has been identified as a significant barrier to the free movement of several fish species including wild Atlantic salmon; sea, river and brook lamprey; wild brown trout; and eels.

The majority of the main river and its smaller tributaries in the catchment are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive.

Minister Ryan, who has responsibility for inland fisheries, said: “Free passage of fish is key to the sustainability of our precious fish stocks and the protection of biodiversity along our rivers.

“This project will help protect the Mulkear as one of our most valuable river habitats. I am delighted that Inland Fisheries Ireland will lead this project, and that their in-house expertise on fish passage mitigation will ensure it is delivered to the highest standard.”

IFI says it will progress these works as a pilot project in collaboration with various State agencies and key stakeholders “through the multiple phases involved in improvement of fish passage at the weir”.

This pilot includes the design and implementation of a national barriers restoration programme currently being progressed by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and which is expected to be announced in the draft River Basin Management Plan to be published shortly.

It will also be an opportunity “to test a collaborative and ecology-focused design approach towards informing similar future mitigation projects” as well as evaluate “enhanced community engagement opportunities that go beyond the standard consultation practices involved in the planning process”.

IFI chief executive Francis O’Donnell added: “Ensuring the free passage of fish is a main priority for our agency as we conserve and protect our inland fisheries resource.”

Published in Angling

A Clonmel man has been convicted on five charges including assaulting fisheries officers stemming from a poaching incident at Inniscarra Dam in May last year.

Officers of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) had observed Craig Brew fishing in a prohibited area known as the ‘Flush’ at the face of the ESB dam on 23 May 2020.

Evidence was heard that Brew — who had travelled from Tipperary to Cork during the COVID-19 lockdown — had refused to cooperate and violently threatened and resisted the fisheries officers before gardaí arrived to assist.

Brew was convicted by Judge Marian O’Leary at Cork District Court on Wednesday 21 April and fined €500 for illegal entry upon the private fishery, €400 for obstructing the fisheries officers, €500 for assault and €300 for not having a Salmon Rod Ordinary Licence.

Judge O’Leary also fined the defendant €300 for using a vehicle to aid the commission of an offence and considered an ancillary disqualification for the use of the vehicle. Costs of €400 were awarded to IFI and an order for forfeiture of the fishing rods used was granted.

Sean Long, director of the South Western River Basin District, said: “The welfare of our Fisheries Officers is of foremost importance to IFI and that they can carry out their necessary work while ensuring their own personal safety. We are concerned at the level of threatening and aggressive behaviour towards fisheries officers in the area and on social media.

“While we are satisfied with the convictions in this case, an assault on a fisheries officer is a severe matter and offenders will be prosecuted without exception. I urge anglers and members of the public to report illegal fishing through IFI’s confidential hotline on 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24.”

Published in Angling
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