Inland Fisheries Ireland has recently commenced a comprehensive sea trout assessment and monitoring programme in the Lough Currane catchment in Kerry. The project, called ‘Currane STAMP’, aims to identify potential factors contributing to the apparent decline of sea trout populations in the area in recent years. The programme follows reports from anglers of reduced catches and is funded by Inland Fisheries Ireland through its Salmon and Sea Trout Rehabilitation, Conservation and Protection Fund.
Sean Canney TD, Minister with responsibility for Inland Fisheries, said “the Currane system is an internationally renowned angling hotspot for salmon and sea trout and hosts some of the longest lived and largest sea trout found in Ireland. However, recent indications from angler rod catch reports suggest declines in sea trout populations in the system and I support Inland Fisheries Ireland’s attempts to get to the bottom of these developments”.
The Currane project is one of 25 projects in 16 counties which have been awarded funding by Inland Fisheries Ireland through its National Strategy for Angling Development. The organisation today announced funding of €1 million for fisheries conservation, protection and education initiatives and for projects which will give the public greater access to fishing sites around the country. In total, €242,900 has been awarded to the research project on the Currane – €55,800 in 2018 and a further €187,000 in this latest funding call. A separate initiative at Scartleigh Weir near Listowel will also receive €6,000 to support the provision of CCTV equipment to monitor illegal poaching activity in the area.
As part of the programme on the Currane, researchers will use a combination of traditional and novel research techniques to examine important aspects of sea trout ecology throughout their life stages. Habitat surveys will map important spawning and nursery areas while electrofishing (a benign technique used to catch fish by stunning them for a short period of time) will be conducted to assess juvenile fish population trends against previous studies in the area.
Inland Fisheries Ireland researchers have already begun tracking the movement of juvenile sea trout tagged with tiny acoustic tags. Acoustic receivers, which record the movement of any tagged sea trout passing within range, have been strategically placed in freshwater in the Currane system and in the sea in Ballinskelligs Bay with a view to uncovering the freshwater movement and inshore migratory routes of sea trout and determining their survival in the marine environment.
The research will be coordinated and conducted from Met Éireann’s Valentia Observatory in Cahersiveen where Research Officer, Ryan Murray from Inland Fisheries Ireland will be based and will be supported by experienced local fisheries staff. In addition to the sea trout assessment, the team will also work on a salmon monitoring programme which will aim to determine if population trends between the two species are related or independent.
Dr Cathal Gallagher, Head of Research and Development at Inland Fisheries Ireland said: “This research will collect vital information on sea trout which will ultimately inform management strategies which may be required to combat the possible deterioration of sea trout in the Currane system. I would like to acknowledge the support of Met Éireann for this project and we look forward to working with local anglers on the ground to help establish the status of sea trout populations.”
As part of a citizen science initiative within the programme, Inland Fisheries Ireland will be enlisting the invaluable knowledge and assistance of local anglers to establish current and historical rod catch trends. Neil O’ Shea, a fourth generation Currane ghillie, who is supporting the programme said: “I am looking forward to contributing to the sea trout citizen science component developed by Inland Fisheries Ireland. This project will be important for the sea trout fishery in Currane and will help to answer key questions related to the apparent decline of trout in the area.”
The projects in Kerry see an investment by Inland Fisheries Ireland in the area. The funding has been made available through the Salmon and Sea Trout Rehabilitation, Conservation and Protection fund under the National Strategy for Angling Development. The Strategy aims to ensure that Ireland’s fish stocks and angling infrastructure are protected and enhanced with a view to ensuring a sustainable habitat and delivering the economic, health and recreational benefits they offer to communities across Ireland.