Mr McKay asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what action he is taking to protect and safeguard people who have the right to fish using fixed bag nets on the North coast.
The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure: The Department of Culture (DCAL), Arts and leisure has a statutory responsibility to conserve and protect wild salmon stocks and research has shown that Atlantic salmon populations are under threat. DCAL also has to comply with EU legislation under the Habitats Directive and other European legislation to conserve and protect this endangered species. The Department has offered the remaining commercial salmon net licence holders on the North Coast compensation for a voluntary cessation of fishing. This has not been accepted and the Department is now consulting with the netsmen on a way forward.
I am aware of the cultural and social factors associated with the commercial salmon industry. I will consider all relevant information before making a final decision regarding the fixed bag nets on the North Coast.
The Chronicle's Peter Winter asserts that neither licence holder was prepared to comment on the offer to buy back drift net licences.
One factor the Minister might wish to consider is the length of time these final two drift net licences have been held. Fisheries Conservancy Board documents show that Seymour Sweeney acquired a licence in 2006. The Minister might like to ask FCB why a licence was issued despite the circumstances he has outlined in his Assembly answer.