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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Salmon tagging scheme criticised
Stocks of wild Atlantic salmon are shrinking
Stocks of wild Atlantic salmon are shrinking
A salmon tagging scheme aimed at combating poaching has been criticised by licenced fishermen in County Londonderry.

Under the scheme introduced by the Loughs Agency earlier this year, all licenced fishermen on Lough Foyle and the Foyle River have been issued with tags.

It is now illegal to buy a salmon from the area that is not tagged.

This is aimed at taking the market away from poachers, who are further reducing dwindling stocks of Atlantic salmon.

The Loughs Agency says this is particularly important when the fish are coming up to their spawning grounds.

However, fishing operators on the Foyle have said the scheme is not just affecting illegal fishermen.

'Price differences'

Fisherman Robert Allan said: "We are not getting as good a price for salmon caught in the river as people are getting for the sea salmon because of the different colour tags.

"We are getting 2 per lb for salmon here, whereas Greencastle salmon are being bought for 3.50 or 3.70 per lb."

Derek Anderson, chief executive of the Loughs Agency said: "The anglers, driftnet fishermen who operate between Derry and Strabane and the driftnet fishermen who operate in the Lough seaward of Lough Foyle have all got different tags.

"They have to fix a tag to every salmon they catch, so that all legally caught salmon have got tags."

However, Finbarr McCrossan, who has been fishing the Foyle for more than 20 years said: "Our salmon is now classed as a lower class of salmon compared to the sea salmon.

"But the fish we catch probably haven't been in the river for more than seven or eight hours because the sea lice are still fresh on them.

"So we don't see what difference it makes."

Although sceptical at first, fish buyers along the Foyle are now happy with the scheme.

One shop owner Lawrence McDaid said: "It is only the anglers who are unhappy because they can only kill four fish a day, when before they could kill 40 or 50."

'Necessary scheme'

Fisheries inspector Robert Ray said the scheme is very necessary because poachers had been taking hundreds of fish from the lough and river.

His department have seized more than 100 illegally caught fish since the scheme started.

"We have illegally caught hen fish in the freezer, which should have gone to the spawning grounds," he said.

Despite assurances from the Loughs Agency that the scheme will be reviewed in the coming months, fishermen are still unhappy.

Finbar McCrossan said an industry, already affected by falling stocks, has been damaged further.

"Fishing is becoming a thing of the past on this river. There are less men working here every year," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Enda McClafferty reports:
"Fishermen on Lough Foyle and Rover Foyle say the scheme to combat poaching is affecting their operations."
See also:

27 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Criticism floods in over rivers
08 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Pollution threat to NI salmon
21 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Crown immunity queried over pollution
10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Investigation after fish kill
01 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Wild salmon face numbers crisis: WWF
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