Angling Trust Calls for Voluntary Approach to Regulating Salmon and Sea Trout Angling

Angling Trust Calls for Voluntary Approach to Regulating Salmon and Sea Trout Angling

The Angling Trust has today published its responses to concurrent consultations by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales about the regulation of rod and net fisheries.  As the representative body for anglers in England and Wales, the Trust has called for a voluntary approach to management of the exploitation of salmon and sea trout by anglers fishing with rod and line and designation of salmon and sea trout as sport fish only, because of the vastly greater benefits to society arising from angling compared to catching these species in nets.

Voluntary catch and release of salmon has increased from below 10% in the 1990s to around 80% now, with many anglers returning every fish they catch and choosing to fish with methods that avoid causing damage to the fish so that they can go on to spawn successfully.  In England, the Environment Agency has, in response to pressure from the Angling Trust, indicated a preferred option for this voluntary approach to continue, but with higher targets for rivers where stocks are in a particularly poor state.  The Angling Trust supports this approach on the proviso that it is accompanied by a complete ban of commercial netting on these rivers and a ban of mixed stock netting (catching fish at sea returning to several different rivers).

However, in Wales, Natural Resources Wales is proposing a much more draconian approach which is strongly opposed by the Angling Trust.  It would make the taking of any salmon illegal on all rivers in Wales for 10 years, regardless of the health of stocks, and would also ban the use of treble hooks, bait and other methods which have been used for centuries.   Many of the Angling Trust’s members who fish in Wales have highlighted the huge negative impact that these regulations would have on angling.  Several clubs and fisheries have said that they would not be able to continue and this could lead to a dramatic reduction in the massive investment of time and money that anglers make to managing the water environment for the benefit of fish and other wildlife.

The Welsh regulator is proposing allowing continuation of sea trout fishing at night with nets from coracles, despite the fact that the nets will have a by-catch of salmon that will have to be identified and returned to the water, with a high likelihood of suffering physical damage from nets and exposure to the air for long periods.

In both responses – and a joint letter to the UK Fisheries Minister on behalf of angling and fisheries organisations which was co-ordinated by the Angling Trust – it has been strongly emphasised that removing nets and reducing the small number of fish killed by anglers each year will not save salmon stocks.  The Angling Trust has called for real action to tackle agricultural and sewage pollution, reduce predation by cormorants and goosanders, restore damaged habitat, remove barriers to migration, investigate the reasons for low marine survival rates and reform abstraction legislation which was promised by the government in 2011.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “The stark difference between the recommended options in these two consultations demonstrates that only the Environment Agency has listened to the concerns of anglers and recognises the huge environmental, economic and social contribution from angling.  The approach proposed by Natural Resources Wales is for lots of new, detailed mandatory rules for anglers despite its own utterly slapdash regulation of sewage and agricultural pollution, which kill far more fish than anglers could dream of catching.  We urge both regulators and the governments in England and Wales to focus on tackling the underlying cause of failing salmon stocks, which is the strategic mismanagement of the freshwater and marine environment.”