Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Salmon Drift Net Licences

Not so many years ago there were around thirteen drift net licences issued annually. The drive to conserve salmon stocks led to a reduction to six licences and now there are just two. I understand some of the earlier licences were bought out.
My interest in the Portballintrae drift net licence was aroused at the time of the Paisleys Sweeney controversy.
Correspondence passed to the BBC shows that in 2005, both Ian Paisley Sr and his son intervened in a dispute over a drift net licence for a boat registered in Portballintrae.

Mr Paisley Jr supported the claim by the longest serving crew member, Stephen McLaughlin, to inherit the licence.

Stephen had been a crew member on Cecil Montgomery's boat, the Julie M CE 20. Cecil died about three years ago and apparently there was a dispute between Stephen and another member of the Montgomery family as to who could apply for the annual licence. The Montgomery family still have the Julie M but Stephen had no boat.

When a licence holder dies or retires the longest serving crew member gets first call on the licence. At this point the Fisheries Conservancy Board could have refused a licence and thereby reduced the number of licences to one; this would also have meant they didn't have to buy out the licence in the future.
Paisley lobbying prevailed and the licence went to a fisherman with neither boat nor net. Stephen was able to obtain both from Seymour Sweeney and I understand 'drifted' for salmon during his customary two weeks holiday in July. His No1 listed crew member was Seymour.
Stephen handed the licence in after one season and the licence holder for the past two seasons has been Seymour. All caught salmon have to be tagged so should the authorities examine a hotel freezer the number can be traced back to the fisherman who caught it.
Conversations with local fishermen and Portballintrae folks have unearthed a number of yarns. Apparently there was a licence issued in the past and it was signed by a fisherman who could neither read nor write. It's claimed there was an affidavit with three signatures but in less than three handwriting styles. It would appear that some folks on the crew lists over the years have been dry land sailors. Perhaps the fishery authorities have been hoodwinked by wily old sea salts!!

PS I've blanked out personal details such as home addresses and telephone numbers