Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey has voiced his alarm that local wild salmon stocks are nearly extinct.
Speaking following a meeting of the Assembly’s Culture, Arts & Leisure committee which received a briefing on salmon conservation, the South Belfast MLA said:
“Whilst there has been some mention of low wild salmon stocks, I was shocked to learn that the reality is they are not just low but at near extinction levels.
I believe that the public do not appreciate just how precarious the situation is. It is estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 salmon return to Northern Ireland each year to spawn. Of these, half are wild salmon, which could mean that as few as 500 wild salmon return to spawn in our rivers each year.
A DCAL Consultation into salmon conservation has highlighted the seriousness of the situation with regard to local salmon stocks. Long term monitoring of the survival of salmon during the marine phase of their life cycle at DCAL’s Bushmills station shows a decline from 30% returning from the sea in 1997 to less than 5% today. There are a number of causes including over-fishing and the poor state of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is beyond question that there has been a serious collapse in local wild salmon numbers and this is a situation which has implications not just for local anglers but for our tourist industry.
The sad fact is that we have talked for so long about implementing strategies to save our wild salmon stocks that I fear we have left it too late to act and are now past the point of no return.”