ESB claims that all the salmon counters at their dams “malfunctioned” in 2020

No salmon counts are available for 2020 for the ESB dams on the Lower River Shannon, River Lee, and River Erne.

In the ESB Fisheries Conservation annual report (2020), they claim that the fish counters at all sites “malfunctioned”. Yes at all dams, for the entire year!

The salmon counters used at these sites are standalone units and are not connected in any way to each other. It is not credible that the counters at 4 different dams located in Co Donegal, Co Tipperary, Co Clare, and Co Cork could all malfunction at the same time and not be fixed for an entire year.

There are also no fish counter results from Leixlip dam on the River Liffey. This site was originally monitored by the Marine Institute and when their counter was removed several years ago the ESB did not replace it. The ESB put the same text into their annual report every year regarding why there are no salmon counts at this dam. But they give no excuse regarding why they have not installed a fish counter.

Incredibly, ESB has claimed that all of their fish counters, at all their dams, “malfunctioned” – for all of last year!

So there are no salmon counts for 2020 on any of the rivers where ESB has large hydroelectric stations. But did these counters really malfunction or are they just covering up how bad things really are in relation to salmon runs?

Salmon runs had been drastically declining in all of these rivers in recent years. On the River Shannon, it was previously reported that runs had collapsed due to the impact of the hydroelectric scheme. The number of salmon passing the ESB’s dams in the Lower River Shannon in recent years has been meeting <5% of the conservation limit (CL) escapement target.

Inniscarra dam on the River Lee, September 2021. In the ESB Fisheries Conservation Annual Report it is claimed that “due to continuous malfunctions of the fish counter there was no census data for 2020“.
Parteen Regulating Weir on the Lower River Shannon. In the ESB Fisheries Conservation Annual Report it is claimed that “due to Ardnacrusha and Parteen Weir fish counter malfunction, there was no 2020 counter data“.
Cathaleen’s Fall dam on the River Erne. In the ESB Fisheries Conservation Annual Report it is claimed that “due to fish counter malfunctions no census data was available for the 2020 season.”.

Knowing the numbers of salmon that pass through these dams is essential to allow these rivers to be managed properly. This is especially important at the Shannon dams as this is the Lower River Shannon SAC and salmon are a Qualifying Interest of this Natura 2000 site. But having this data for all the ESB rivers is important. Drainage from an estimated 19.8% of the island of Ireland lies upstream of these schemes. Not having any salmon counts from these major rivers covering such a vast catchment area is of serious concern.

It is totally unacceptable that there are no upstream salmon counts available for any of the ESB dams now. This is either gross incompetence or is a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that salmon runs in these rivers have collapsed. It is also of significant concern that this has not been challenged by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

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