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Loughs Agency Retains Existing Tag Allocation to Help Conserve Atlantic Salmon

9th March 2022
Atlantic Salmon

The Loughs Agency has made the decision to retain salmon carcass tag numbers for licence holders for the 2022 season in line with the previous year’s policy.

The Agency introduced the interim policy for the 2020/2021 season whereby the number of tags issued with a game angling licence was reduced to a maximum of one blue tag (1st March to 31st May) and two black tags (1st June to 31st October).

The principal objective of this measure is to carefully manage salmon in the Foyle system due to concern from within the Agency over conservation levels of the species. Based on the information collected in 2021, it appears there were fewer total fish in the Foyle system in 2021 than in 2020, and consequently a precautionary approach had to be adopted.

After careful evaluation, it was decided to maintain the previous position while introducing in-year reviews of the salmon runs based on fish counter data, annual angling returns and run strength.

Loughs Agency has undertaken a review of legislation and has come to the following conclusion: “It is the view of some stakeholders that the Agency should manage carcass tags on a catchment-by-catchment basis. The use of real-time figures can be beneficial in informing decision-making on the number of tags to be distributed per year, and how many tags can be given out for angling in each catchment.” This viewpoint is to be considered in regulatory changes once actions from the review can be implemented.

In the majority of rivers throughout Northern Ireland and in many locations globally, catch and release is now mandatory for salmon angling due to the pressures on sustainable populations. In these areas, no carcass tags are issued, and anglers are forbidden from retaining any fish. It is encouraging that most anglers in the Foyle area are aware of these pressures, and now voluntarily practice catch and release.

Loughs Agency also recognises the value of anglers on the rivers and their contributions towards sustainability. Considering this, the Agency has agreed to a compromise while still fulfilling obligations under the Habitats Directive. Salmon are a selection feature of Foyle Rivers that have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation.

In recent years this has led to the suspension of commercial salmon netting, while waters under the jurisdiction of Loughs Agency have subsequently been declared as catch and release only.

If you have any concerns over illegal fishing or pollution within the Foyle or Carlingford catchments, please contact the 24hr Loughs Agency Response Line on +(0)44 2871 342100.

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