Loughs Agency uses a series of connected projects and ‘audit points’ to monitor and manage Atlantic salmon at various stages of their life cycle.
The first audit point measures catches of returning adult fish. We use a real time management system for both the commercial and recreational fisheries in our jurisdiction.
Catch records can be compared over time to indicate trends and highlight, when necessary, the need for management intervention. If pre-determined numbers of Atlantic salmon do not pass key electronic counters by certain dates each year, action must be taken. This can include closing or curtailing recreational and commercial fisheries and/or the compulsory introduction of catch and release schemes.
The Foyle area’s Atlantic salmon commercial fisheries are currently closed. Only catch and release angling is permitted in the recreational fisheries on the Rivers Finn and Foyle. This is because our electronic fish counter on the Finn at Killygordon recorded a failure to meet the Agency’s salmon conservation limit.
Fish counter projects, like the one at Killygordon, are the second audit point. Another three strategic counting facilities are located on the River Faughan at Campsie Barrage, the River Roe at Ardnargle and the River Mourne at Sion Mills. Loughs Agency operates Aquantic Logie 2100 C resistivity fish counters on all these sites.
Atlantic salmon spawn in the Foyle and Carlingford areas from November to January. When water levels are low, our Fisheries Officers walk along the rivers to identify spawning nests, or redds. The third audit point records the number and locations of the redds.
Atlantic salmon eggs hatch from March onwards. Initially, the fry feed off their yolk sac but then swim into feeding territories in the spawning and nursery areas. Every year between July and September, Loughs Agency conducts semi-quantitative, 5-minute electrofishing surveys to monitor fry numbers and distribution. This marks the fourth audit point.
We carry out surveys of spawning, holding and nursery habitats. Details of anything that could harm the Atlantic salmon’s survival chances are recorded. Appropriate improvement projects are developed.
The final audit point estimates the annual out-migration of Atlantic salmon smolts from the River Faughan and collects information from migrating salmon, sea trout and other species.