Investigations by the Angling Trust into reasons behind the declining salmon stocks in Dartmoor’s rivers have revealed that the Environment Agency was aware of the cause as early as 2008, but as yet has failed to take any action to stop the demise of this threatened species.
The Atlantic salmon is a designated species for the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Natural England’s assessment for the Water Framework Directive is that water abstraction is the reason for failure to meet legally required environmental objectives. The Environment Agency’s own assessment is that salmon are in an unfavourable, declining condition.
Dartmoor is one of eight areas where the Angling Trust is campaigning, as part of the WWF-UK supported POW! (Protect Our Waters!) campaign. The effect of over abstraction (leading to lower flows) on salmon stocks on Dartmoor and the iconic rivers Dart, Teign, Yealm and Erme that lead from it have been a key focus for the organisation and local anglers for whom the rivers are a second home.
John Montague, a local angler who has fished the Teign for over 50 years, said:
“Over the years I have seen the dramatic decline of salmon on the Teign. Time and time again I and many other anglers have raised this with the Environment Agency to be met with stony indifference. Perhaps now, at last, we can save the Dartmoor salmon”
The Angling Trust’s Environmental Campaigns Manager, Mark Owen, carried out investigations to uncover whether abstraction was the root cause of the problem on these renowned salmon rivers.
Through this investigation, it was revealed that the Environment Agency commissioned a report as long ago as 2006 from world renowned scientists at the University of Hull International Fisheries Institute (HIFI), which concluded in April 2008 that over-abstraction was a pressure on salmon returning from their long trip to the Atlantic ocean. The report goes on to list a number of key recommendations that must be carried out by the Environment Agency to restore salmon stocks. To date none of these recommended actions has been implemented.
The Environment Agency is currently undertaking some measures relating to abstraction licences on the rivers in question, but these have no effect on flows. The HIFI report, specifically advised against taking these measures as they would not benefit salmon.
In response to the findings from the POW! campaign, the Angling Trust and its members are demanding that the Environment Agency implements immediately the recommendations of the HIFI report to protect falling salmon stocks in the Dartmoor SAC.
The Dartmoor campaign has already been given a voice in Parliament, with Charles Walker (MP for Broxbourne and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group) tabling the following question:
“ To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, what measures are being taken by the Environment Agency to address the over-abstraction of rivers flowing from Dartmoor; in particular, the south Devon rivers: Dart, Teign, Yealm, and Erme; and if she will make a statement.”
A copy of the Minister’s response will be put up on Charles’ website (www.charleswalker.org).
In total the Angling Trust has campaigns on rivers in eight regions including Sussex, Sheffield, Devon, the Midlands, Thames, Durham, Yorkshire and the Norfolk Broads.