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Angling Trust welcomes delay in implementing controversial new salmon byelaws


River Eden spring fishing for salmon x550px

The Angling Trust has cautiously welcomed the announcement from the Environment Agency earlier this week that it will delay until 2019 the introduction of controversial new byelaws to regulate salmon angling in England.

New proposed byelaws would have required 100% mandatory catch-and-release by salmon anglers in 2018 on English rivers which have been classified as being predicted to be “At Risk” in 2021: Tees, Stour, Yealm, Plym, Ribble, Wyre, Lune, Crake, Calder and Derwent. Although this delay is welcome, the announcement is a double-edged sword because commercial salmon net fisheries – some of which would have been closed this year had the measures been introduced – will continue taking more than twenty thousand salmon for another season.

The Environment Agency held an informal consultation at the end of 2017 to seek views on how salmon fisheries should be managed over the coming years given the decline of many stocks in recent years. This was followed by a formal consultation earlier this year on proposals to close the most damaging net fisheries with immediate effect and introduce mandatory catch-and-release for salmon anglers on 10 of the 42 principal salmon rivers.

The closure of unsustainable salmon net fisheries, particularly the north east coastal drift and coastal net fishery that target stocks from several different rivers, was one of three objectives of the Angling Trust’s Save our Salmon campaign, which the Trust was voted to lead by readers of Trout and Salmon magazine back in 2015, along with tackling unsustainable avian predation and agricultural pollution. The drift net fishery would have been closed for the 2018 season had the proposals been implemented, and most other net fisheries in the 2019 season.

The Angling Trust is supportive of closing unsustainable net fisheries but has strongly opposed mandatory measures and micro-regulation being imposed on salmon anglers, who already voluntarily release the vast majority of the fish they catch. Anglers also commit a huge amount of voluntary time to improving river habitat, patrolling the bankside to reduce poaching and add millions of pounds into rural economies every year. Instead, the Angling Trust believes that a voluntary approach should be implemented, allowing angling clubs and fisheries to manage this process themselves.

Many salmon anglers also believe that the Environment Agency’s stock assessment methodology – upon which a river’s salmon stock status and therefore any new measures are based – is flawed and a poor predictor of future stocks.  The Angling Trust has called for a review of the methodology during this hiatus and for better catches by rods on many rivers in 2017 to be taken into account.  

There is a separate consultation on the Solway Rivers (Eden and Border Esk), and the Minister is currently considering proposals and objections from rods and nets with a view to implementing measures in 2018.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said:  “This process has been delayed and confused at several stages by slow decision-making at DEFRA, a shortage of resource in EA Fisheries and a snap general election last year.  It has created immense uncertainty and as a result substantial economic loss for angling businesses in the areas where mandatory measures were proposed.  We urge the Minister and the Environment Agency to take on board our calls for a voluntary approach and a review of the assessment methodology.  Hopefully the drift and coastal nets will cease in 2019, which will save 20,000 salmon heading for English and Scottish rivers and fulfil our international obligations.  Urgent action is needed on the real issues affecting fish stocks: predation, barriers to migration, pollution and fish-farming.”

Further information on the byelaw proposals can be found here.

Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
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