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New Conservation Measures in Wales for Salmon and Sea Trout (Sewin) Miss the Target


River Annan 550px - Credit James Champkin

The Angling Trust, the representative organisation for anglers in England and Wales, has responded angrily to proposals set out in a consultation issued by Natural Resources Wales yesterday for the regulation of salmon and sea trout (sewin) fishing with rods and nets in Wales. 

The Trust is calling for urgent action to address pollution and to control numbers of cormorants, goosanders and mergansers, rather than imposing more regulations on anglers.  The Angling Trust believes that the proposals fail to address the root cause of declines in fish stocks, which lie in a deteriorating water environment coupled with unsustainable predation.

The proposed angling regulations would impose a blanket ban on anglers taking any salmon they catch to eat and outlaw treble hooks of all sizes, bait fishing and barbed hooks for the next 10 years.  The Angling Trust regards these measures as draconian; feedback from its member angling clubs suggests that the new rules will lead to more people giving up fishing, resigning their club memberships and a loss of rod licence income to Natural Resources Wales.  Across the border in England, the Environment Agency is due to launch a consultation shortly which will take a much more reasonable and realistic voluntary approach after in-depth discussions with the Angling Trust.
While the Trust welcomes the proposals for banning the netting of salmon, which was one of the campaign aims of its Save Our Salmon campaign, it is concerned that sea trout (sewin) nets would continue to operate during some months and has grave doubts about the welfare of salmon caught and released by those nets as a by-catch, particularly by coracles fishing at night.

Diffuse water pollution from agriculture and forestry in Wales is at an all-time high and enforcement of regulations has in recent years been woefully lacking by Natural Resources Wales.  The Angling Trust has repeatedly raised concerns with Welsh Government about its failure to address this serious and growing problem which is killing far more salmon and sewin each year than the proposals for controls of exploitation by nets and rods would save. 

The consultation document refers to a new Wales Land Management Forum and Water Strategy for Wales, which promise to “review the regulatory framework for diffuse pollution by 2018”, but there is no timetable for implementation and the document states that all work to address the problem would be within existing budgets.  Major and concerted action is required urgently to stop the regular serious pollution incidents and widespread diffuse pollution from agriculture and forestry if salmon and sea trout are to have a viable future in Wales.  Sewage pollution, over-abstraction of water, hydropower and other barriers to migration are also locally significant issues that are harming fish stocks in some rivers.

Predation from cormorants and goosanders is widely thought to have a major and increasing impact on salmon and sea trout stocks, but Natural Resources Wales is maintaining a policy of only allowing licences to “shoot to scare” these birds when there is a need for far more licences for fishery managers to control numbers at sustainable levels without unnecessary bureaucracy and restrictions.  Changing this policy would have rapid results and would directly address the issue of poor juvenile numbers in many rivers which is thought to be linked to the warm, wet winter of 2015/16. 

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said: “The proposals in this consultation impose yet more regulations on anglers but offer nothing that will make any immediate difference to the main problems facing salmon stocks which are pollution, predation, abstraction, barriers to migration and poor marine survival.  Welsh government and its regulator have singularly failed to respond to the concerns of anglers on these major strategic issues for decades and they are now responding by banning anglers from using even small treble hooks which have been used for centuries.  Anglers are already outraged by the recent consultation proposing that all rivers in Wales should be opened up for canoeing and other paddlesports.  Taken together, these consultations indicate that the government doesn’t care about angling in Wales and the hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue it generates for the economy.”

The Salmon and Sea Trout Catch Controls 2017 consultation launched by Natural Resources Wales can be found here.

Details of the Angling Trust's Save our Salmon campaign can be found here.

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