Following official figures showing the worst estimates of salmon stocks on record, a coalition of concerned angling, fisheries and conservation groups has written to Government Fisheries Minister George Eustice and to his counterpart Edwina Hart in the Welsh Assembly Government, to demand urgent implementation of a five point action plan to halt the sharp decline in salmon stocks in England and Wales.
The Angling Trust, Angling Cymru, Afonydd Cymru, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fish Legal, The Rivers Trust, and Salmon & Trout Association have urged the Government to take the five remedial actions that are urgently needed to restore stocks of this iconic species to English and Welsh rivers and protect them for future generations.
The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) Annual Assessment of Salmon Stocks and Fisheries in England and Wales in 2013 estimates that only 19 of the principal 64 salmon rivers in England and Wales reached their conservation targets; compared to 42 in 2011. This is the equal lowest number since conservation targets were introduced in 1993. Overall, the number of salmon estimated to be returning to England and Wales in the last two years was amongst the lowest on record.
The report does not expect a significant improvement in stock levels. Since the 1970s there has been a 40% decline in the number of salmon returning to our rivers each year, despite the much-publicised return of salmon to previously polluted rivers such as the Tyne and Mersey.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “These figures, coupled with reports from our members, are very worrying for the future of salmon and the angling sector which supports thousands of jobs. As the report makes clear, the decline in stocks is probably mostly due to reduced sea survival, but in that context the government must do everything possible around our coasts and in our rivers to minimise threats to salmon. The Environment Agency must work closely with organisations such as the Marine Management Organisation and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities on an integrated approach to protect and restore migratory fish stocks.“
Ivor Llewelyn, Atlantic Salmon Trust’s Director (England & Wales), said: “Environmental factors are a key reason why salmon stocks are not recovering on many of our rivers, and action to address these, within the wider framework of policies to conserve the environment, is essential. In addition, on rivers with declining stocks we need to ensure that as many salmon as possible survive to spawn by reducing the numbers of fish killed, both legally and illegally.“
Paul Knight, Chief Executive of the Salmon & Trout Association, said: “Many of the actions that we are advocating will not only benefit salmon. Reducing abstraction and agricultural pollution and restoring river habitats will all benefit the wider aquatic ecosystem, in which salmon play a key role, as well as a wide range of other species. They will also benefit the economy in a number or rural areas, bearing in mind the often substantial economic value of salmon fisheries.“
Arlin Rickard, Chief Executive Officer of The Rivers Trust, said: “While we are calling for more money to be spent on salmon conservation in general, however many of the key measures necessary are not in themselves costly. Delivery of habitat improvement schemes through greater use of third sector partnerships and better co-operation between the Environment Agency own departments will enable existing funding to be used more effectively. We also urgently need a joined up package of measures, including advice and grants, to help farmers improve farm practices to address the widespread problem of agricultural pollution.“