Ulster Unionist MLA for North Antrim, Robin Swann, has welcomed the DCAL Minister Caral Ni Chuilin’s change of heart in relation to the need for new legislation to tackle the threat to salmon stocks in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist Culture, Arts and Leisure Spokesperson commented:
‘Today during Culture, Arts and Leisure Question Time I put it to the Minister that new legislation was needed to replace the outdated and complex Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966. The aim of the Fisheries Act is to protect and sustain fish stocks in Northern Ireland. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this legislation is not fit for purpose and the major decreases in salmon stocks are indicative of that. The Minister has recently been forced to ask operators of coastal fishing engines not to apply for 2012 licences, Lough Neagh draft net licence holders not to take salmon in 2012 and anglers to practice catch and release when fishing for salmon rather than killing them – this would not have been necessary if the Fisheries Act in itself was adequately robust.’
‘Despite previously telling me that she had no plans to bring forward legislation in this area, the Minister today performed a U-turn and admitted that it was indeed a necessity. I welcome this movement from the Minister and it shows that she has listened to the persuasive arguments which have been put to her by myself and others. This is the right step to take to ensure that indigenous fish stocks, and particularly salmon, are sustainable in the long term.’
‘However, Ms Ni Chuilin did suggest that the hundreds of letters she has received are slowing the process down but without this lobbying she would not have taken account of this important issue.’