Ulster Unionist MLA and party DCAL spokesperson Robin Swann has welcomed confirmation that there will be no licences to net salmon issued this year.
Speaking after last week’s announcement he said: “During today’s committee meeting it was confirmed that the Department cannot legally issue licences to net salmon this year due to the perilous status of the salmon population.
“It has taken some-time to get to this position and while the announcement is welcome it signals the beginning of a period of consultation on a wide range of issues in relation to the preservation of this iconic species.’
“There are those who doubted that such action would be taken but having reviewed the scientific evidence, I personally was convinced that this was the only course of action that could be taken.
“Of course there is now even more of a requirement for anglers across Northern Ireland to accept that they too cannot kill salmon in the coming years.’
“There remain many issues in relation to the management of our fish stocks and waterways to be addressed over the next few years and these will be easier to address in a spirit of co-operation between the department and all of the stakeholders.”
Earlier in the week No Salmon Nets In Irish Waters (NSN) had given a cautious welcome to the recent statement by the DCAL Minister regarding the remaining commercial salmon netting off the coast of Antrim and other DCAL licensed salmon nets on Lough Neagh and off the Co. Down coast.
NSN chairman Seamus Donnelly said: “While we welcome this news, we feel it has not gone far enough.
“The Minister has the power to stop netting now, she must be more decisive as urgent action not words is required to halt the ever decreasing numbers of salmon returning to our rivers.
“As a group of passionate conservationists we urge the Minister not to grant any licenses for coastal netting in 2012, as we believe our salmon stocks simply can not sustain another season of commercial netting.
“We want these actions to be compulsory and not voluntary.
“With ever decreasing salmon runs in recent years, we feel that in this modern age, there is no longer any place for the commercial netting and exploitation of wild salmon in this country.
“There is huge potential for recreational angling in this country, which to date has largely been untapped.
“If we could realise some of this potential we could generate significant benefits for local communities, creating hundreds jobs and injecting much needed revenue into our economy at a time when unemployment is at its highest level for generations.
“Our counterparts in the South of Ireland and Scotland already have well established markets for angling tourism.
“They attract visitors from all over the world coming to enjoy the scenery, angling, wildlife and atmosphere. Northern Ireland has much of this to offer too and, given the correct conservation measures, has the potential to be a world leader.”