The last of the River Shannon salmon?

These parr are naturally spawned salmon and I found these during an electrofishing survey in the Island River near Ballymoe, Co Galway in August 1998. This river is a tributary of the upper River Suck, which is in turn the largest of the River Shannon tributaries.

Salmon parr from the Island River, August 1998

It is thought that the Island River held a residual stock of naturally reproducing salmon up until the end of the 1990’s. However, salmon are now extinct in the upper River Suck (and the upper River Shannon), but the presence of fish like these in the past shows that it would be feasible to have salmon back to these areas again – the habitats are still there.

We need a new genuine River Shannon Salmon Management Programme; currently only a few hundred salmon pass upstream through the ESB dams in a river with a conservation target of 49,000 per annum. This shows that ESB’s current fisheries management approach is a total failure and in need of urgent change. Give the salmon a chance and they will come back again.

When you look at the upper Shannon in detail you can see that the habitats are still there to support a significant and self-replicating salmon run to the upper Shannon. It is time to address the issues in the lower reaches of the river and get the salmon back to rivers like the Island River for the centenary of the Shannon scheme. There is scope for new fish passes, bypasses and sustainable water management. Having no salmon in the upper River Shannon is just a decision that ESB have made to favour hydroelectricity generation over biodiversity. So what do you want – highly paid jobs for the privileged few or thousands of salmon returning to rivers like the beautiful Island River at the top of the Suck catchment?

Join me on Saturday at Ormston House, Limerick, to discuss how we can restore the River Shannon on World Fish Migration Day 2018.

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