Adverse weather may have led to one of the worst years on record for salmon on Dorset’s River Frome, and the picture could well be mirrored across the chalk streams Of England.
Drought followed by prolonged severe flooding saw smolt run estimates from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust settle on fewer than 7,000 fish running up the river, in comparison to over 13,000 in recent times.
The GWCT believes that this will have ‘a major consequence’ for adult fish returning to the River From and other rivers for the next few years, a conclusion backed by Fishing TV’s Rae Borras, who has witnessed a collapse in sport on his beloved Hampshire Avon.
“The prediction of further decline in the numbers of salmon returning to southern chalk streams and river systems because of the effects of the droughts in 2011 and early 2012 is really bad news for these fragile stocks of salmon and for the fisheries that depend on them,” says Rae.
“This is especially true of my home river, The Hampshire Avon, where the Rod Fishery is on the verge of collapse due to the intrinsically low numbers of salmon returning to the river and the cumulative effect of layers of Environment Agency restriction on fishing methods.”
Rae, who presents the Game Fisher’s Diary TV series currently on Fishing TV and to be aired on Discovery TV later this year, believes the EA has clearly failed in its statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop salmon fisheries.
“Reduction in ‘Rod and Net’ effort has been the Agency’s sole meaningful response over the past 20 years to the decline in numbers of fish returning to the river,” he says. “And this policy has been a dismal failure, serving only to disguise the underlying and more significant work needed to halt the decline, which has characteristics unique to this wonderful river.
“The GWCT’s report asks for fishery managers to prepare to respond to the latest predictions. But unfortunately, on the Avon, we have run out of all achievable short-term options.
“We are now also being told that the Agency is cutting back on practical fishery works due to budgetary constraints. This is further shocking dereliction of their duty to “maintain, improve and develop” the fishery.”
With climate change experts predicting more extreme drought/flood conditions for the foreseeable future, Rae believes there has to be a radical overhaul of the way that the Avon and other rivers vital to the future of salmon in England are managed.
“I hope that the complaint that the Salmon and Trout Association has made to the European Commission regarding the Avon is upheld and upheld quickly, because urgent action of a different kind is needed NOW,” he added.
The Salmon & Trout Research Centre run by scientists from the GWCT uses technically advanced monitoring equipment to record the upstream and downstream movement of Atlantic salmon in the River Frome. It provides one of the most comprehensive, long-term records of salmon numbers in Europe.
To obtain a copy of the 2012 salmon research report produced by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, contact: Daniel O’Mahony on 01425 651060 or download a copy from the GWCT’s website: www.gwct.org.uk/salmonreport2012
Pic, Rae Borras of Fishing TV believes the EA has failed in its statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop salmon fisheries.