The Environment Agency’s national salmon and sea trout byelaws, applicable in England, have been confirmed by Defra. This means that the byelaws will become law and come into force on 1 January 2019.
The Environment Agency is introducing these restrictions on fishing in England in response to the international decline in migratory salmon stocks. Salmon stock numbers are currently among the lowest on record and are below sustainable levels in many rivers.
The byelaws will become law on the 1st January 2019 and will see the following restrictions being implemented:
- Closing all commercial net fisheries for ‘At Risk’ and ‘Probably At Risk’ rivers (some fishing for sea trout will still be allowed). This will include all drift net fisheries;
- Mandatory catch and release by anglers on the rivers that are classed as ‘At Risk’ to be introduced in June 2019. These are the Cumbrian Calder, Dorset Stour and Yealm;
- Mandatory catch and release by anglers on the rivers that are listed as ‘Recovering Rivers’. These are rivers where salmon were effectively wiped out and small populations have re-established in recent years with improvements in water quality on mostly heavily polluted post-industrial catchments. Examples of these are the Mersey, Yorkshire Ouse;
- Renewal of the 1998 Spring Salmon Byelaws. These protect the larger, early running salmon, and do not involve any new measures.
The Angling Trust has given a warm welcome to the announcement by Fisheries Minister George Eustice that nearly all netting of salmon in England will cease for at least 5 years with effect from 2019 after a sustained campaign for the past 4 years by the Angling Trust. The new byelaws will save more than 20,000 fish a year from the nets, allowing them to go on to spawn and contribute to the recovery of salmon populations, many of which have been in decline for several years. The principal benefit will be to rivers in the North East of England and the East coast of Scotland, as the majority of netting takes place there, but many other rivers will benefit from an end to small scale netting as well.
An end to unsustainable netting was a one of three principal aims of the Angling Trust’s Save Our Salmon campaign, which was partly supported by financial contributions from readers of Trout & Salmon magazine. However, the government has as yet failed to tackle pollution from agriculture and to allow fishery managers greater freedom to control predation by cormorants and goosanders, which were the other two principal aims.
The Environment Agency’s Five Point Approach, launched two years ago to restore salmon stocks, has failed to have any significant impact and has suffered from a lack of funding by government and an unwillingness to take regulatory action to reduce the impact of pollution, over-abstraction and barriers to fish migration. The Angling Trust will be campaigning vigorously over the next few years, in partnership with WWF and The Rivers Trust, for concerted action to address the key issues affecting Atlantic salmon populations, which will be of benefit to many other species which depend on healthy river environments.
- New regulations and a credible threat of their enforcement to tackle pollution from agriculture.
- Greater freedom for fishery managers to control populations of goosanders and cormorants.
- Introducing regulations to require the owners of barriers to fish migration to make them passable, promised 15 years ago.
- Restoration of government funding for Environment Agency fisheries after a 76% cut in the past decade.
- Sustainable funding for rivers trusts and the Catchment Based Approach to restore healthy catchments and salmon habitats.
- Reforming the abstraction regime, promised by the government as long ago as 2011.
- Funding for research into reasons for the plummeting rates of marine survival of salmon.
- Action to implement the findings of the Scottish Government’s recent investigation into the highly damaging salmon farming industry.