Salmon conservation

Information about the decline in salmon stock, the policy responsibility of the Department for the conservation of salmon and action taken by the Department, including a series of regulations introduced in March 2014.

Decline in stock

It is now widely acknowledged that stocks of wild Atlantic salmon across its range are in serious decline and southern stocks, including some in North America and Europe, are threatened with extinction.

At the ‘Salmon Summit’ in La Rochelle, France in October 2011, international scientists confirmed that wild Atlantic salmon are dying at sea in alarming numbers. The reasons for increased marine mortality are not clear but international research into various factors contributing to this is on-going. 

Long term monitoring of the survival of salmon during the marine phase of their life cycle at Bushmills Salmon Station shows a decline from around 30% returning from the sea prior to 1997 to less than 5% today. It is therefore imperative for those with the responsibility for the regulation and management of fisheries exploiting salmon to consider the need for further conservation measures to be introduced.

North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation

The Department has policy responsibility for the conservation of salmon and inland fisheries in the north of Ireland. Regulatory responsibility in the Foyle and Newry areas resides with the Loughs Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.

The UK, through the European Union, is party to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), which aims to conserve, restore, enhance and rationally manage Atlantic salmon stocks through international co-operation.

As a jurisdiction within a Member State, we are expected by the EU to work towards meeting the objectives of NASCO agreements and resolutions.

Action taken by the department

To this end the Department introduced a series of Regulations in March 2014 to implement mandatory catch and release for salmon and sea trout angling and to prohibit commercial salmon and sea trout netting.

The legislation also provided mechanisms for compensation for affected netsmen and future eligibility for licence applications should such netting resume.

Scientific committee on salmon

A Scientific Committee on Salmon has also been established to advise the Department annually on the conservation status of salmon rivers.  This advice will determine which rivers can be re-opened for the taking of salmon and if commercial activity can resume.  

In 2015, Lough Melvin and the rivers Glenarm and Clady have been exempted from catch and release.  The tagging mechanism for any salmon taken is managed by the local angling club on each water.

Consultation on salmon conservation

The public consultation on salmon conservation in the DCAL jurisdiction was carried out using an on-line survey from 1 May to 10 July 2012. A total of 371 responses were received, although not all of them provided views on every aspect of the consultation or completed the survey.

The views of individuals accounted for 90% of responses while 10% represented the views of organisations on behalf of a total of 16,821 individuals within the organisations.    

Consultation report

The full report is available on the following page:

Analysis of responses

Of those who responded to the consultation, 85% said that their primary involvement was recreational angling, 2% said it was commercial fishing and 13% specified that it was a different involvement.

Preferred option for commercial fishing

83% were in favour of “Total cessation”  

Preferred option for recreational angling

43% were in favour of mandatory catch and release

31% were in favour of mandatory catch and release, quota regulation and temporal restrictions

Proposal to amend Fish Dealers Register

92% agreed with this proposal

Proposal to ban sale of rod caught salmon in DCAL jurisdiction

98% agreed with this proposal

Proposal to make it an offence to be in possession of a forged or altered tag

97% agreed with this proposal
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