Will the Environment Agency’s proposals to protect wild salmon work?

Can the EA Protect Wild Salmon?

We warmly receive the Environment Agency’s proposed new measures to protect wild salmon stocks, but we emphasise that they need to be implemented rapidly to save this threatened species.

The 2015 national salmon stock assessment indicated that wild salmon stocks in many rivers across England had failed to meet their minimum conservation targets. Further monitoring since then has shown that this trend has continued downwards.

Paul Knight, our CEO says:

“We are delighted that the campaigning and responses of S&TC and other organisations to the Environment Agency’s consultation on salmon stocks has resulted in these new proposals to protect wild salmon and sea trout.

The proposed closure of net fisheries on the North East coast of England by 2019 is a promising start but we believe the case is extremely pressing and action should be taken this year and not delayed for yet another season.”

Mixed stock coastal netting stations indiscriminately catch any salmon passing by, regardless of where they are heading or the strength of the population in their home rivers.

They are completely non-selective, making the management of individual river stocks almost impossible. In addition, many rivers that should see returning fish are designated as “At Risk”. The random nature of mixed stock fisheries therefore makes it extremely difficult to determine the impact of such fisheries on these vulnerable river sites.

Under pressure from S&TC and other organisations, the Scottish Government finally announced the closure of all Scottish netting fisheries in 2016.  However, coastal mixed stock netting stations still occur along the North East coast of England. While this is not under Scottish jurisdiction, between 30-70% (depending on area fished) of wild salmon caught are from Scottish stocks.

Paul Knight continues:

“We agree that the reason for the dramatic decline in wild salmon is complex.  Atlantic salmon are wild migratory fish with a unique life cycle. Leaving its distant marine feeding areas, this iconic fish returns to the river where it was born to lay eggs, but to do this they face immense challenges.  Many of these are caused by direct human impact – so it is in our gift to save this fascinating species for future generations, but time is running short.”

S&TC has long battled with the Scottish Government on fish farming and the impact that this is having on wild stocks of salmon because of the dramatic rise in sea lice populations.  The charity is also helping to protect wild salmon ‘s fresh water habitats through its Riverfly Census, which has identified that pollution from sediment and phosphate is having a direct effect on water quality to the detriment of all aquatic wildlife including wild salmon.

Paul Knight concludes:

“Pollution has reached an alarming level in many of our rivers and much more work needs to be done to protect these spawning grounds for salmon as well as other wild fish.

This will involve a major re-think in the way our water is managed through improved regulations, stricter penalties for polluters and more in-depth monitoring of water quality.”

In addition, S&TC is concerned that these new proposals do not address the conservation status of sea trout. Although considerable effort has gone into identifying the conservation status of Atlantic salmon and its complex lifecycle, we know far less about how sea trout are faring, although they share very similar characteristics and habitats to salmon.  More detailed research on the status of sea-trout populations is urgently needed to protect this species too.

The Environment Agency will advertise the proposed byelaws to protect salmon in late February 2018 and is inviting responses to the proposals either online or via letter. We welcome this new opportunity to protect wild salmon, provided it can be effectively activated.

5 thoughts on “Will the Environment Agency’s proposals to protect wild salmon work?

  1. Salmon are an iconic species that along with sea trout deserve better protection. If they were fluffy or feathered this would have happened years ago!!!

  2. Diffuse farm pollution in the spawning areas is the proven cause of low salmonid numbers, study the £3.2 million government research. No effective action is taken to address this. Political pressure on the EA stops them prosecuting the farmers, look at Skitwath Becks history in Cumbria. 102 incidents in 16 years and only one prosecution. Stop the cause not salmon fishing. Stop protecting farmers for party funding reasons.

    1. There is one thing missing from the Protect Salmon 5 Point Plan which all concerned are overlooking and it’s clear to see that nature needs a helping hand.The river Tyne is a fine example of how man can help to restore Salmon populations by having hatcheries,it has also been proven on Canadian rivers that hatcheries work. The E.A. have hatcheries for coarse fish,so why not for game fish. The River Lune has benefited many times in years gone by with the introduction or raised Salmon parr. Where do the Salmon fish farms get their smolts/parr from to raise the thousands of Salmon that they produce, the same could be used to restock all rivers that are deemed at risk.The fish farms on the west of Scotland don’t help with all their pollution and the munitions that were dumped in the Irish Sea after the First World War are now corroding and leaching chemicals into the sea, this does not help in anyway.Seals and predatory birds need culling to help balance and turnaround this situation of depleted Salmon stocks. YES NATURE NEEDS a helping hand.

  3. The measures will cover sea-trout and the netting by beach nets will not cease in 2019. The Drift Nets are proposed to cease by mi-summer 2018 but a new Net Limitation Order for beach nets will restrict their season and areas in which they may operate from 2019. All salmon netted will be returned carefully from beach nets. All licences are retired when the licensee retires so the fishery will be passed out. There will be a review after 5 years. Hope this helps.

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