State considers leasing Salmon Weir to UK operators

The iconic Salmon Weir.

The State body charged with looking after Galway’s iconic Salmon Weir is exploring the option of leasing the world famous fishery to a private company in England.

Anglers have reacted angrily to news that Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), has discussed leasing the waterways to an English business that specialises in adventure and activity holidays.

The proposal was floated almost 40 years after the Irish State purchased the rights to the fishery from London landlords, John and Douglas Barber.

Locals fear the move, if it was agreed, would result in massive hikes in rod fees and permit prices for wild salmon fishing.

“The Corrib River was a virtual no-go area before the State bought the fishery in 1978. Only the well-heeled and well-to-do could afford to fish before then. We cannot allow that to happen again,” said one local fisherman.

Another angler said: “The salmon hatchery based in Cong which provides a significant percentage of the overall salmon fish stock for the Galway Fishery is to close. Anglers are very concerned that there is to be a review of the State ownership of the Galway Fishery and current management provided by Inland Fisheries Ireland.”

IFI has confirmed to this newspaper that it is initiating a review of the ‘future management’ of the fishery, and will seek the public’s views.

It is understood a proposal to effectively privatise the waterway was outlined to the board of IFI at a recent meeting. It is understood the proposal was floated due to the organisation’s budgetary constraints.

Though a majority of board members of IFI rejected the leasing arrangement proposal, local anglers are on guard and will fight plans if they re-emerge.

“IFI stopped taking bookings on the Weir for next year, until a decision was made on this lease agreement. The directions about no bookings was issued from IFI Dublin. This shows that it is a very real prospect, and it is still not off the table,” an IFI source confirmed.

Staff at IFI are said to be “very concerned” by the proposal.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.