Value for Money Examination 18;   Management of Inland Fisheries    Summary

 The freshwater lakes comprise approximately 357,000 acres and there are about 8,600 miles of main channel rivers. Many species of fish inhabit these waters, including salmon, sea trout, brown trout, pike, eels and bream.

Inland fisheries management is concerned with all of these freshwater resources and also with certain activities at sea, including commercial fishing and sea angling.

The Department of the Marine (the Department) has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that fisheries are managed for the maximum national benefit. The Central Fisheries Board (CFB) has primary responsibility for the overall co-ordination and, where necessary, direction of the activities of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards (RFBs) and it also provides specialist services to the RFBs.

The RFBs have responsibilities with regard to the management, conservation, protection, development and improvement of the fisheries within their regions and offshore to the twelve mile limit for the protection of salmon.

Total expenditure by the CFB and the RFBs amounted to ?12.8m in 1995. Four fifths of the funding required came from the Exchequer and from the European Union and the balance was provided from their own resources.

The purpose of the value for money examination was to assess the adequacy of the management of inland fisheries. The examination focused on

  • overall management of inland fisheries
  • management of specific fishing products
  • management of fisheries protection
  • management of water quality.


Overall Management

In the course of the examination there was abundant evidence of the dedicated approach of those involved in the management of inland fisheries. However, the quality of planning was found to be poor at all levels. Despite legal obligations on all Fisheries Boards to prepare five-year development programmes, the CFB did not have a programme and neither did four of the seven RFBs.

The roles of the various organisations involved - the Department, the CFB and the RFBs - need to be redefined to achieve much needed clarity of purpose.

Recommendations to resolve organisational and management deficiencies were contained in two independent studies completed in 1994 and 1996. However, most of the recommendations contained in these studies have not yet been implemented.

In addition, it was noted that

No agency appears to have responsibility for the overseas promotion of angling, with the result that little promotion is carried out.

Substantial funds for angling development are available under the Tourism Operational Programme, 1994-1999. However, levels of activity and spending are substantially behind target and there is some doubt as to whether the allocated funds will be spent by the end of the Programme.

Management of  Specific Fishing Products

Some 152,000 overseas visitors participated in angling in Ireland in 1995 spending an estimated ?53m. There are also some 190,000 domestic anglers who spent ?27m approximately on fishing activities in 1996.

The products included in inland fisheries management are coarse fishing, game fishing and sea angling. An analysis showed that the allocation of resources by the Fisheries Boards to these products did not correspond to their relative economic and social importance, in terms of expenditure by overseas visitors and participation by Irish residents.

Targets and a marketing focus were lacking for all three fishing products and there was considerable potential for the development of sea angling and, in particular, eel fishing.

Management of Fisheries Protection

All of the REBs were active in issuing prosecutions and in seizing illegal nets. In the period 199 1-1995 the RFBs, on average each year, initiated 330 prosecutions and seized over 90,000 yards of nets. The use of patrol boats by Boards for protection work varied across the regions.

Important changes have been introduced by the Department with a view to increasing the efficiency of fisheries protection. These include

  • the appointment of a full time national protection co-ordinator, based in the CFB
  • allowing the use of monofilament nets
  • significantly reducing the sea area which may be commercially fished and restricting the permitted periods for commercial fishing.

Management of Water Quality

Fisheries Boards have a statutory duty to protect fisheries' habitats. Good water quality is required for fish survival and particularly high quality water is required for game fish. The REBs have powers to monitor water quality and to prosecute polluters and must receive notice at the planning stage of many proposed developments.

The amount of seriously polluted waters has declined in recent years but the amounts of moderately polluted and slightly polluted waters have increased.

There were over 50 fish kills on average each year in the period 1991-1995. During the same period the RFBs initiated an annual average of 77 prosecutions.

Significant duplication was found between the activities of the RFBs and the local authorities in the following areas

carrying out investigations / inspections

  • issuing advice / warnings
  • initiating prosecutions
  • monitoring water quality.

A co-ordinated approach involving all of the relevant public bodies will be required to eliminate the inefficiencies and to overcome the problem of pollution in Irish lakes, rivers and streams.