Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru encourages catch and release to protect declining populations of sewin
Sewin, or sea trout as they are otherwise known, have been in serious decline in Welsh rivers for a number of years, largely due to factors including pollution, barriers to migration and habitat degradation. Such is the concern for their future, Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru) is calling on anglers to return every sea trout they are fortunate enough to catch during the current season, regardless of size.
Existing measures controlling their exploitation were extended in 2020 with the introduction of new fishing byelaws, placing additional restrictions on fishing methods and a requirement to return all fish over 60cms in length. Nevertheless, the continued decline in stocks clearly suggests more needs to be done.
Of the 33 principal sea trout rivers in Wales, including the Severn, Wye and Dee, none can be deemed wholly free from concern. This is made only too clear in the 2019 sea trout stock performance levels produced by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Seventeen rivers are ‘at risk’, meaning they have a greater than 95% chance of failing to achieve the management objective of producing sufficient offspring to sustain a viable population. A further ten are considered ‘probably at risk’, i.e., having between a 50% and 95% chance of failing to produce a self-sustaining population. While the remaining six are categorised as ‘probably not at risk’ it is worth noting that at the lower end of this category a river might still only have a 51% chance of achieving its management objective.
While stocks remain so perilously low, S&TC believe it is essential that every fish caught is released in the hope that their numbers recover sufficiently to once again produce a sustainable harvest.
Richard Garner Williams, S&TC Cymru’s National Officer, said, “It is imperative we do all that we can to save our precious sewin – the iconic fish of Wales. While a large hen fish carries more eggs, it is her fate alone that determines whether they are successfully cut into redds and fertilised. Smaller fish, however, are more numerous and offer a greater chance of depositing eggs across a much wider area, thereby increasing the chances of overall survival. Succinctly, the more fish that are returned the more chances there are of a population recovering in abundance and resilience”.