CALLS to ban salmon netting featured at a summit held last week, which discussed the failure of English salmon stocks, after it was revealed that 2014’s catches were the lowest on record.
The summit, which took place at the Department for Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) and was attended by senior government officials, including the Chairman and Acting Chief Executive of the Environment Agency and the Fisheries Minister George Eustice, heard about the many pressures on salmon and a number of immediate actions were proposed before the meeting in a joint paper from the Angling Trust & Fish Legal, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Salmon and Trout Conservation UK and The Rivers Trust.
In a speech at the summit, the Angling Trust called for an end to all netting of salmon and the designation of salmon and sea trout as sport fish, to recognise the far greater social and economic benefits of catching these fish on rod and line than in nets. The Trust also demanded that the Fish Passage and Screening Regulations should be introduced urgently, after more than five years of working their way through Whitehall.
It also called for firm but fair regulation of agricultural pollution, which has been identified by the Environment Agency as the principal cause of poor salmon populations in English rivers, and for abstraction reform, which has still not been brought forward to parliament.
The Trust noted that most of the actions required to save salmon were not in the gift of the Environment Agency’s fisheries department, which has been subject to repeated cuts in funding from government, but required action by other parts of the Agency and across government departments.
The Environment Agency announced that it would be launching a 5-point plan for restoring salmon stocks in the new year which would include actions to:
1. Improve marine survival.
2. Further reduce exploitation by nets and rods.
3. Remove barriers to migration and enhance habitat.
4. Maximise spawning success by improving water quality.
5. Safeguard sufficient flows.
Defra also announced during the day that in light of the long-term decline in salmon stocks, Defra and the EA are considering a ban on the killing of wild salmon by nets and rods unless the rivers or estuaries can demonstrate the fishery is sustainable.
The changes being explored (which will be consulted upon in 2016) include:
• The suspension of commercial net fisheries.
• Mandatory catch and release of salmon for recreational anglers on some rivers.
• Rules on angling methods to reduce the accidental killing of rod and line caught salmon.