All of the IFI and Loughs Agency fish counters were working in 2020

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) reported they successfully operated a national fish counter programme in 2020. Similarly, the cross-border Loughs Agency also operated all their fish counters in 2020. This contrasts with the ESB who failed to have any of their salmon counters operational during 2020.

IFI successfully operated counters at 28 sites on rivers across the country. According to IFI in 2020 “almost all the counter sites provided accurate verified data for the year”. The only counter that was down for the full year was on the Dunkellin River – and is not included in the above total. This counter had been removed to facilitate an Office of Public Works flood scheme. The 2020 national fish counter report can be found here.

Similarly, the Loughs Agency successfully operated fish counters at a further 7 locations in 2020. The Loughs Agency fish counter results can be found here.

the Global pandemic has not had an adverse on the fish counter programme. As the counters record automatically, they continue to record during the lockdowns”.

Inland fisheries ireland

The IFI counters are almost all located in remote areas on natural rivers. Only two counter sites are connected to broadband and all the rest have to be visited to manually download the data and maintain the systems. Despite this, they operated a successful national fish counter programme for all of 2020.  

In the 2020 report, IFI state that “the Global pandemic has not had an adverse on the fish counter programme. As the counters record automatically, they continue to record during the lockdowns”.

During 2020 as well as keeping all their counters operational, IFI also provided upgrades at several sites. In the report, they state that in 2020 “new hardware to support high-definition cameras which are compatible with the Logie counter had been identified in 2019 and we were able to upgrade a significant number of sites during the year”.   

The Loughs Agency successfully operated fish counters throughout 2020 on the Rivers Strule, Roe, Faughan, Owenkillew, Clanrye, Finn, and Mourne. They did not report any operational problems.

Killygordon salmon counter, River Finn, Co Donegal. River lampreys will not be able to pass this obstacle, while eels will have great difficulty.

Meanwhile, ESB failed to have any of their salmon counters operational during 2020. There are no salmon counts available for 2020 for any their Ireland’s hydroelectric dams. Incredibly, the ESB have claimed that all of their fish counters, at all of their dams, “malfunctioned” for all of 2020.

The IFI and Loughs Agency fish counter programme is not without its faults. The main issue is that many of these sites cause fish passage problems for fish species with lower swimming abilities than salmonids (e.g. eels and lampreys). Indeed there is a conflict between salmon fisheries management and maintaining eel and lamprey passage. The accuracy of the counts at many of the sites is also questionable. However, both of these agencies have shown that they can capably operate a fish counter programme and did so successfully for the entire of 2020. Work needs to be completed however to ensure that migration of all species is facilitated at these sites.

But serious questions need to be asked about how ESB have let their fish counter programme fail. Salmon runs in all of the rivers where the ESB has hydroelectric stations have seen dramatic declines. The reasons why this happened have been put to a poll. It may be that the ESB is trying to cover up the collapse of salmon runs at these dams – or it may be that they simply don’t care. But having accurate salmon counts is essential for the effective management of fisheries in these rivers. It is not known yet whether they also failed to operate fish counters at their dams in 2021.

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