Save Our Salmon
The Atlantic Salmon
The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is an enigmatic species and the basis for a huge recreational angling sector in Britain. It is an anadromous, migratory fish and therefore undertakes the majority of its growth phase in the marine environment but requires access to clear, fast-flowing, gravel-substrate areas in the headwaters of rivers in order to successfully spawn.
What is the issue?
The 2014 assessment of Atlantic salmon stocks showed a further decline on previous surveys to the lowest catches on record, and therefore action must be taken immediately if we are to halt the demise of this iconic part of our natural heritage. It was recently estimated that a “severe decline” in salmon stocks would equate to an overall societal economic loss of £350 million annually in England and Wales alone.
Click here to read full report by EA on Economic evaluation of Inland Fisheries 2009.
The Angling Trust was voted to lead the 'Save Our Salmon' campaign by readers of Trout and Salmon magazine, and therefore in the years ahead we intend to commit a great deal of time and resources into reversing Atlantic salmon decline.
What are we doing and how will your donations be spent?
Predation by Cormorants and Goosanders
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 mandatory 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 to get rid of all mixed stock exploitation (which catches fish at sea from a number of different rivers), whilst 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 May and we 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 web site. 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 5 or 10 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 both Scotland and England. These fisheries threaten all salmon rivers around the country because they put international agreements 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%), 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%), Eden (83.4%).
On ‘probably not at risk’ rivers they would 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.
Best Practice Catch and Release
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 series of films called “The Gift” which are available on YouTube. The film explains the best tackle and techniques to avoid causing damage to fish so that they can go on to spawn successfully. We understand that the Environment Agency may also be consulting on by-laws about types of tackle which 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.
Part 1 in a series of films produced by the Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fishpal to help promote best practice catch and release fishing for Atlantic salmon. Other films in the series are available on YouTube here.
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.
Contact: Angling Trust Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ
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