Something here doesn’t quite add up, because fishing for salmon in the Teifi these days ain’t what it used to be. In fact, you could even say it’s a little like trying to Find Nemo.
You see, salmon stocks have seen quite a decline in the past thirty years, due mostly to man-made factors. In 1966 the recorded annual catch from net fishing on the Teifi was 1800 fish. Thirty-two years later in 1998 the catch had dropped to only 200 fish.
In order to understand how this is happening you may need to know a little about their fascinating life cycle (cue David Attenborough voiceover). Firstly, it begins and ends in the same place – freshwater. The eggs incubate and hatch in the safety of quiet pools, usually found at the river’s source. From there the young salmon begin their long journey to the saltwater of the sea, this is where they will spend most of their adult lives (up to four years). After maturing fully, they migrate back to freshwater, up the river to spawn and soon after die in the same pools where they were born (end of David Attenborough voiceover).
The problem in the Teifi has been that there are simply less salmon returning to the river than in previous years.
Are they lost? Did they get seasick? Or are they bored of sleepy Cardigan?
Well no, not really... A six year investigation by the Environment Agency has concluded that the main reason they weren’t returning was due to over-fishing at sea by Irish drift-nets. These nets can be several miles long and are barely visible to fish, so they were scooping up everything from herring to whales and dolphins.
So salmon being salmon, and following the same migration routes generation after generation, made it easy for the drift-nets to intercept them too, at a rate that they couldn’t keep up with (they only mate once in their lifetime you know). In the end, those fishermen very nearly did themselves out of a job. Duh.
But in the background one guy saw the plummeting fish count, one guy was working hard to put it right, one guy was looking to the future instead of the right now. Marine Minister Noel Dempsey was the guy trying to get those drift-nets banned.
In 2006 he succeeded and the Irish Government banned their use, meaning that an estimated 68,000 more fish will be swimming back up rivers in Britain – an estimated 1000 to 5000 extra fish in the Teifi alone. The fact that they actually put their money where their mouth is and paid over £15 million in compensation to around 800 commercial fishermen who stand to lose their jobs, should be applauded too.
The ban protects future generations of salmon and ensures that there will now be plenty more fish in the sea.
So praise be to the Irish and thanks to Noel for giving us our fish back.