22nd September

Refurbishment of 19th century weir will improve stock monitoring on premier salmon river

New salmon weir showing refurbished stonework and hydraulic debris lifting systems. Photo IFI

New salmon weir showing refurbished stonework and hydraulic debris lifting systems. Photo IFI

Shane O’Reilly, IFI

 On September 2nd last, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) welcomed An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to Ballina to perform the official opening of the newly refurbished salmon weir, which has stood at the mouth of the River Moy for over 300 years.

Mr Kenny was given a tour of the weir during which he was shown the significant structural and technological improvements that have made it more durable and which will improve IFI’s ability to monitor salmon stocks entering the River Moy system.

Salmon stronghold

The River Moy is one of Ireland’s premier salmon rivers, producing a consistently high annual rod catch that reached over 12,000 fish in 2010. In his address, An Taoiseach congratulated IFI; the former North Western Regional Fisheries Board; the project management team and members of the local community on the “successful completion of a complex project which will help ensure effective management of salmon stocks”.

He noted the important contribution that salmon angling has made to the region, with over 60% of the salmon licence income for Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim coming from anglers outside of these three counties. Acknowledging the hard work put into­­ establishing Ballina’s status as ‘The salmon capital of Ireland’, Mr Kenny complimented all involved, on the positive steps taken to develop and reinforce its importance as Ireland’s top salmon angling destination.

“Ireland’s fish stocks are a unique national treasure, and I acknowledge the key role that the IFI plays in their conservation, development, management, and promotion. A delicate balance exists between the agri sector – with its huge potential to provide for the country – and the critical need to preserve Ireland’s unique aquatic habitats, which are part of our economic and social fabric,” he remarked.

National heritage
Charging IFI with the responsibility of protecting the aquatic environment, Mr Kenny underlined the importance of our natural heritage to future generations:

”We want to manage this resource in the interest of our people, of our visitors and of our economy,” he stressed.

As recognition increases that Ireland’s resources are key to its economic wellbeing, a primary goal within the remit of the IFI is to generate a better economic return from the fisheries resource.

Noting how 85% of the €1.1 million cost of the weir refurbishment project was funded from angling licence and permit sales on the River Moy, An Taoiseach pointed to the potential for Ireland’s fisheries to generate significant revenue and to make a growing contribution to the economy as a whole:

The weir in Ballina is at the head of the tidal waters of the River Moy and is the first main obstacle encountered by salmon as they begin their journey up the river to spawn. The weir also forms the upper boundary of the Ridge Pool, probably Ireland’s most prolific salmon beat which extends from the weir downstream to the bridge. While a weir for trapping salmon has existed in Ballina since the 14th Century, the current weir was constructed in the 19th century and is a landmark in the town and of significant heritage interest.

The weir had fallen into disrepair over recent years, succumbing to the natural wear and tear encountered during winter floods. One of the primary challenges of the refurbishment project was to address these structural issues through a process of strengthening the weir while also ensuring that its appearance remained in harmony with the original stonework comprising limestone blocks.

Work began in July 2010 and was substantially completed by March 2011; the project was completed within budget, brief and on time. The works necessitated temporary damming of the river but remarkably, fishing continued on the Moy Fishery throughout the project. The resulting structure blends into the vista of the town and has been well received by the people of Ballina.

The refurbishment project also afforded the opportunity to make some important improvements that will contribute significantly to salmon management on the river. The new structure was specifically designed to accommodate electronic fish counters and the computer hardware necessary to operate them.
The counters are submerged within the boxes that were formerly used as fish traps and the computers are housed in the newly refurbished ‘watchman’s hut’, which as the name suggests, was formerly a look-out base located on the weir for officers protecting the salmon from poachers.

Fish counters play an increasingly important role in Irish fisheries management as they provide accurate data on returning salmon stocks, which are then assessed to determine if conservation measures are needed.

Another challenge for the project was to provide an easily operated mechanism for cleaning and maintaining the fish counters. This was achieved by replacing the old trapping screens with a series of hydraulic gates. A number of cranes, also hydraulically operated, were mounted on the old piers which will enable removal of flood-borne debris. Importantly too, the newly refurbished weir provides a safe working environment for IFI staff as they clean and operate the fish counters.













Tourism generator

Despite the current economic situation, Mr Kenny however acknowledged the vital role that projects such as the weir refurbishment play in creating positive growth, where organisations and local communities join together in a common purpose:

“Tourism will play a very important role in our economic recovery. With angling tourism one of the primary outdoor-based activities Ireland has to offer, it is imperative we continue to develop and market our angling product abroad so that potential tourists are aware of the excellent freshwater and sea angling that is available in Ireland.”

Mr Kenny also emphasised the “hidden revenue” generated by anglers as they spend money in local businesses such as hotels, B&Bs restaurants and pubs:

“By working hard to integrate angling with other tourism activities on offer, we can provide a comprehensive package to suit the needs of all potential tourists, and ensure that both the domestic market and visitors can make the most of our unique natural heritage.”


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