| 11.2°C Dublin

Generous fishing quotas likely to net FF votes

A DECISION to grant generous salmon drift-net quotas to fishermen was partly influenced by Fianna Fail's vote-catching plans for the 2007 General Election.

This was the US view on the then government's overturning of recommendations made by scientists in the National Salmon Commission.

Officials in the US embassy in Dublin noted Marine Minister Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher had fixed a total allowance catch of 139,000 salmon for 2005, which was 42,000 in excess of the commission's recommendation.

The decision prompted protests from the media, opposition parties and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, an international NGO coalition.

In a cable to Washington, the embassy said fishery officials here had pointed out that the domestic salmon industry was tightly regulated and Irish drift nets were not harming salmon stocks of other member states.


The officials said Ireland would align salmon quotas with scientific recommendations in 2007 as implementing them immediately would place an economic burden on fishermen.

This approach, the cable said, fitted the governing party's efforts to court the labour force in the run-up to the 2007 election.

Two officials from the Department of the Marine said the criticism was undeserved since the government spent €30m annually to regulate the salmon industry on the basis of a scientific monitoring system that "was unequalled in Europe".

The two officials objected to efforts to portray Ireland as the principal obstacle to international salmon conservation efforts.

Ambassador James Kenny commented in the cable that while they were not in a position to judge the scientific merits of the government's position, they could state that the campaign for the election was already under way.

"The delay appears to fit an emerging pattern in which major government decisions affecting labour have been put off," he said.