Casueway Coast and Glens Council is to write to the Minister for Environment to seek a meeting to discuss the difficulties local anglers are facing due, they say, to salmon farms.
Members of Council’s Environmental Services Committee heard a presentation from the Glens Angling Club last Tuesday.
David Wray, Hugo McCormick and Seamus McKillop addressed the committee to ask for their support in challenging Stormont, as well as the Scottish and Irish governments, over “the damage salmon farms within their jurisdictions are having on the Irish north and east coast wild salmonid stocks”.
The deputation also called for “all escaped farmed salmon to be destroyed and disposed of properly, with no exceptions” so that they cannot cross-contaminate natural salmon.
Thirdly, they also called for the protection of stocks of wild salmon.
Cllr Sam Cole, himself an avid angler, said he sympathised with the Glens Club in their assessment about sea lice from salmon farms attacking wild salmon but he also contended that the reason there were less fish in our rivers now is that they are having to go further to find natural feed.
“We have to find a compromise, we can’t just relocate salmon farms like that,” he added.
Cllr Margaret Anne McKillop said she had attended a public meeting two years ago when a salmon farm was proposed for Red Bay. She said that when sea lice concerns were raised a veterinary officer claimed there was no problem with lice at an existing fishery at Glenarm. She added that she believed salmon cages to be an eyesore at a scenic area like Red Bay but added that as a local council they had to remember that the salmon farm in Red Bay was a local business which employed eight people who use local businesses and shops.
Cllr Joan Baird said she remembered watching salmon coming into Portbradden and being sent to the fish markets of Manchester. “It is very sad that in a short period of time it has dropped from being an abundant harvest to nothing,” she said, urging the Glens Angling Club to widen their argument to include trawling.
“Every night I see trawlers, soon we are not going to have any fish, not just salmon,” she said.
Cllr George Duddy suggested that Council write to the Minister to arrange a meeting with elected representatives and the Glens Angling Club to “short circuit things and move this up the agenda more speedily”.
“What we are talking about is not just happening in Glenarm, it’s big business. If angling accounts for £40 million in the Northern Ireland economy, a high percentage of that must come into our local economy.
His proposal was seconded by Cllr Mark Fielding and was agreed by the committee.