sea trout
Waterville resident & guide Roger Baker with a fresh sea trout from the famous Lough Currane. Sadly catches like these have become increasingly rare in recent years, largely due to nearby salmon farming

New by-law for Waterville sea trout

 25th July 2018

A new by-law has been proposed for the famous Waterville area of Kerry to protect declining sea trout populations. Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) recently sought submissions under a public consultation (closed 18th July)

The purpose of this by-law is to seek to reasonably limit the pressure on sea trout stocks which spawn and live in the area of Ballinskelligs Bay and the river systems which discharge in to the bay. IFI counter data and catch records indicate that there has been a collapse in sea trout stocks in the general Waterville area. This new bye-law is intended to decrease the pressure on sea trout stocks in the systems while still allowing anglers to fish and would mainly affect fishing on:

  • The River Inny (Knockmoyle) and its tributaries;
  • The waters of the Waterville system, including the Waterville River, Lough Currane, the Cummeragh River and all their tributary rivers and lakes;
  • The waters of Ballinskelligs Bay;

This change would affect persons fishing for sea trout by all methods (rod & line, net, box or crib). This bye-law may be time limited or subject to review after a three-year period. Furthermore, the current regulations which govern fishing for salmon in these waters would not be affected.

John Murphy, Director of Salmon Watch Ireland and manager of the Waterville Fisheries Development Group agrees in principal with the new proposals, having witnessed first-hand the massive decline in wild sea trout stocks of the famous Lough Currane system in recent years. However, he has reservations about this course of action considering he, like many, maintains that this decline is due to almost exclusively to salmon farming in the local area rather than angling pressure.

“There is a long history associated with dramatic fluctuations of the Waterville sea trout stock especially since 1990 and the advent of salmon farming. Facing reality, the Waterville system has never reached the heights of the seventies and eighties after the advent of salmon farming in Kenmare Bay and Deenish Island circa.1990. There was an abrupt crash in 1992 with very poor returns and a huge influx of pre-mature post smolts and adults which in all probability suffered extensive mortality. There was a substantial recovery post 1995 with lice levels controlled at Deenish and other farms in Kenmare Bay. However, it is probable that the recovery was based on a perception not linked to historic abundance” said the local ghillie.

John added, “Certainly there have been years post 1990 when stocks have shown a partial recovery and indeed no salmon farming took place in Kenmare Bay or Deenish Island in 2006 and 2007 and a large number of finnock and maidens (first spawners) were evident in subsequent years, with 2009 demonstrating a very substantial increase in spawning by fish from 1 to 5lbs. 2010 was again free of salmon farms in the spring period and finnock were very strong in this year, with maidens again very positive in 2011.”

In 2010 the fish farm in Deenish was reopened under new owners and this coincided with an almost immediate crash in finnock in 2011. An even more dramatic collapse of all year classes has occurred since 2015 when production increased at this facility.

On the new by-law, John made it clear that “The local ghillies and anglers who work and frequent Waterville have, by and large, practiced catch and release from 2002 onwards and were very proactive through the Waterville Fisheries Development Group in protecting and improving the catchment. This work has been ongoing with the Waterville Lakes and Rivers Trust now firmly established. The new bye-law should focus attention on how this marvellous system and its unique sea trout have been severely compromised.”

“One ray of light has emerged in that Inland Fisheries Ireland has committed to extensive research to identify the main cause of this crash. We can speculate as to the cause but without some semblance of scientific proof the lake will continue to decline as without proof action against any sector would be problematic and result in stalemate, a situation which cannot be tolerated.”

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For a detailed insight into salmon farming and the ecological implications the industry is having please read John Murphy’s excellent, in-depth piece here