Salmon stocks on two of Devon’s most important rivers will soon be helped on the road to recovery thanks to a pioneering agreement between the Environment Agency, riparian owners, local anglers and netsmen.
The Agency played a central part in the negotiations and successfully introduced the legislation for a ground-breaking package of measures.
There has been a major decline in salmon numbers on both the Teign and Dart in recent years with neither river meeting its conservation limit. With too few adult salmon breeding, future stocks are at serious risk.
But a series of new conservation measures, including a scheme to compensate commercial netsmen for giving up their licences could help to reverse that trend and give salmon numbers on both rivers a welcome boost. The new measures also include regulations recently approved by Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw.
The agreement represents a major breakthrough for all parties and comes after months of painstaking talks between the Environment Agency and fisheries interest groups. At one point senior DEFRA fisheries officials paid a flying visit to South Devon for face to face talks with the interested parties. The net limitation orders will see the number of licensed salmon nets on the Teign reduced from 6 to 3 and on the Dart 13 to 3. In return netsmen will receive compensation payments.
The orders will in place for 10 years after which time they will be reviewed. The new bylaws will see a return to ending the netting season on the Dart to August 16 (currently July 16), while on the Teign the netting season will remain and end on July 31. One of the main aims of the agreement is to enable angling interest groups to restrict catches on a voluntary basis, rather than through less flexible bylaws.
It is hoped that through a combination of Association rules and individuals releasing fish voluntarily, at least 70% of salmon taken in the Teign rod fishery and over 90% taken on the Dart will now be returned to the river.
The three netsmen remaining on each river will also be encouraged to exercise catch restraint to help safeguard salmon stocks for the future. Mike Weaver Chairman of the Upper Teign Fishing Association said, ‘Fisheries interests on the Teign are delighted at the completion of the package that has led to a new Net Limitation Order of three and additional conservation measures.
The package reflects real co-operation by all parties on measures to protect both salmon and sea trout, with concessions and contributions being made by all those who have an interest in the river Teign and its fisheries.’
‘The Agency is extremely pleased that this major conservation initiative has come to fruition after months of effort on all sides. We are very grateful for the lengths all parties have gone to achieve this excellent outcome, and in particular those who have contributed financially to enable the compensation scheme to take place,” said Alan Burrows for the Environment Agency.
‘These regulations form the basis for sustainable fisheries on both rivers and we now look forward to working with interested parties in the future management of these important salmon fisheries,’ said Mr Burrows The Chairman of the Dart Fisheries Association Dennis Mitchell commented:
‘This is a very important step towards protection of the Dart salmon but much remains to be done. The Dart Fisheries Association will continue to work with all interest groups to build on this success.’