AN END TO ENGLISH NETTING…
…but rod-fishers must release all salmon on at-risk rivers in 2018. Mark Lloyd urges anglers to respond positively to the EA’S proposals
THE ANGLING TRUST’S successful bid to front Trout & Salmon’s Save Our Salmon campaign in 2015 led to the government organising a Salmon Summit in November of that year. Defra issued a very unhelpful press release during the summit threatening to impose catch-and-release on anglers. More positively, the Environment Agency announced a Five Point Approach to addressing the issues facing salmon, pledging to improve marine survival; reduce exploitation by nets and rods; remove barriers to migration/enhance habitat; improve water quality; and safeguard sufficient flows. The Angling Trust has been leading on the work to reduce exploitation by nets and rods in England. Our aim has been to reduce unsustainable netting and get rid of all mixed-stock exploitation (which catches fish at sea from a number of different rivers), while avoiding the imposition of mandatory catch-and-release on anglers. Over several months, we negotiated a set of draft proposals with the Environment Agency, which have now been approved by its national board. These will be put out for an informal, six-week consultation during April and I hope that every angler, club, tackle-shop and fishery owner reading this will respond to it. We will make details available through our e-mail updates to members and on our website. The results of the consultation will be considered by the Fisheries Minister and then measures will be proposed in the autumn of 2017 for formal consultation before implementation in the 2018 season. The proposals include a five- or ten-year ban of all netting of fish returning to rivers predicted to be “at risk” or “probably at risk” including all mixed-stock fishing, such as the drift nets (due to be phased out in 2022) and the T& J nets off the North-east coast, which take vast numbers of fish returning to rivers in Scotland and England. These fisheries threaten all salmon rivers around the country because they put international agreements [to limit or stop netting] with the Greenlanders and Faroese at risk, so it is extremely good news that they might at last be closed. Instead of mandatory measures being imposed on anglers, we have secured the Agency’s support for a preference for a voluntary approach led by the angling community ourselves (but this is subject to the outcome of the consultation). This would involve aiming to achieve 100% catch-and-release on predicted “at risk” rivers (current release rates in brackets): Tees (88.6%), Dart (100%), Yealm (100%), Lune (71.4%) and Derwent (75%). On “probably at risk” rivers the Agency would expect to see an increase in rates of release to above 90% on the: Coquet (70.2%), Yorkshire Esk (87.7%), Hampshire Avon (100%), Piddle (100%), Frome (96.8%), Stour (98%), Axe (100%), Exe (75.9%), Devon Avon (87.5%), Crake (75%), Irt (64.7%), Tavy (74.7%), Tamar (83.6%), Camel (72.2%), Torridge (89.5%), Lyn (100%), Ribble (91.3%), Kent (67.9%), Border Esk (66.4%), Wyre (67.8%), Erme (100%), Plym (75%), Calder (100%), Ehen (58.2%) and Eden (83.4%). On “probably not at risk” rivers they hope to see increased rates of release: Tyne (71.5%), Wear (67.8%), Itchen (100%), Lynher (66.2%), Taw (85.3%), Teign (78.3%), Fowey (71.7%), Severn (72.4%), Leven (93.3%), Test (99.6%), Duddon (70.3%). For some, this will require a substantial culture change if we are to avoid mandatory measures being imposed, for others it will mean continuing good practice. It is very important that we all submit a catch return to the EA at the end of the season, which is a legal requirement of being a rod licence holder. The Agency has also promised to take full account of information from fisheries’ own records. On all rivers, they would like to see better practice being used to ensure that as many released fish survive as possible. The Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fishpal have teamed up to make a film called The Gift, which is available on You Tube [You Tube: search “The Gift salmon”] The film explains the best tackle and techniques to avoid causing damage to fish. We understand the Environment Agency may also be consulting on by-laws about types of tackle that may be used. Please make your views about these proposals known through the consultation process, and if you’re a member of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, please let us know, too, so that we can represent you. Scotland has, of course, already implemented its system for classifying the Conservation Status of rivers, imposed mandatory catch-and-release in category 3 rivers and ended all mixed-stock netting. We have recommended a voluntary approach to Natural Resources Wales, which seems intent on mandatory catch-and-release. We will be doing so again when they consult on their measures later this year. Of course, the real threat to salmon comes not from anglers, but from pollution, predation, fish farming, over-abstraction and hydropower. We will keep pressing for real progress to address these and other issues affecting our magnificent fish.
“It is very important that we all submit a catch return to the EA, which is a legal requirement of being a rod licence holder”