S&TC Response: Sea trout netting season. Yorkshire and the North East

S&TC Response: Length of the netting season for sea trout in Yorkshire and the North East

Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) does not believe that any coastal mixed stock fishery (MSF) netting for sea trout should take place.  We consider that the Environment Agency (EA) made the correct decision in closing the MSF for salmon on the north east coast, based on salmon stock assessments which, although in need of review for the way in which they are calculated, at least give a broad indication as to the health or otherwise of regional salmon populations.  We do not believe that the same work has been carried out to accurately identify the status of English sea trout stocks, and certainly insufficient scientifically robust information is available on which to base a decision as to whether an MSF should be operated for sea trout in the north east coastal region.  This is particularly important as the EA acknowledges that sea trout catches were heavy during the trial season in 2019, suggesting that at least some individual river stocks will have been significantly impacted by the fishery, and would be even more so in an extended season.

Both the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) and International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) consider MSFs for salmon to be poor management practice, principally because they make it extremely difficult to manage individual river stocks effectively.  Having taken the correct decision to close the MSF for salmon on the north east coast, we fail to see why a different decision should be acceptable for sea trout, especially when there is less stock information available for the species - though the strong likelihood is that the fishery is indeed indiscriminately exploiting sea trout populations from the eastern English and Scottish rivers.  Even so, we note that the EA states in its supporting paper:

“The majority of the salmon populations in England exposed to the beach net fishery are assessed as ‘probably at risk’. Also seen to be ‘probably at risk’ is a number of sea trout stocks contributing to the coastal net fishery - indicating a precautionary management approach should be adopted."

S&TC therefore asks, if these same classifications for salmon stocks were deemed sufficient grounds to close the MSF for that species, why is it considered acceptable to continue killing sea trout under similar circumstances?  Also, If NASCO and ICES consider coastal MSFs for salmon to be poor management practice, why are MSFs not considered the same under sea trout management?

S&TC therefore believes that the coastal beach net fishery for sea trout should be completely suspended - with appropriate compensation paid to netsmen for relinquishing their licences - at least until more work is undertaken to better assess the status of sea trout stocks in England, and in particular for those rivers impacted by the fishery.  What is good for salmon is equally valid for sea trout and we believe that to continue the fishery, let alone extend its season, should be considered poor management practice, quite apart from any conservation measures which should be imposed on individual river sea trout stocks pending better assessment of their status.  As the EA’s supporting paper states, management decisions should be taken under the Precautionary Principle – in the present circumstances, that should indicate the need to close the fishery.

S&TC therefore strongly advocates that there should be no extension to the sea trout netting season and that consideration should be given to closing the fishery altogether, pending further assessments of individual river stocks so that future management and conservation decisions are taken in the light of the most up to date scientific evidence available to managers.