Environment Agency Statutory Advertisement – changes to salmon byelaws to protect wild salmon stocks

On the 7th March 2018 the Environment Agency has announced a Statutory Advertisement with proposals to change salmon byelaws in an effort to protect wild salmon stocks, which continue to be at very low levels. The advertisement will run from the 7th March 2018 until the 8th April 2018. Objections must be received no later than the 8th April 2018.

In 2014 wild salmon stocks in England were at their lowest level ever recorded, and these stocks have continued to perform poorly in 2015 and 2016.

The Environment Agency has proposed new measures and byelaws for managing salmon stocks in England and the Border Esk. Please use this link to view the advertisement and proposed measures: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/fisheries/proposed-national-salmon-byelaws/

The proposals include:

  • Stopping the take of salmon from the majority of England’s net fisheries by 2019, this will result in the closure of a number of fisheries.
  • All drift net fisheries will close from 2018.
  • It will also require increased levels of Catch and Release (100% mandatory Catch and Release for “At Risk” rivers) for salmon rod fisheries.

Kevin Austin, Environment Agency’s Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment said:

“The measures and byelaws we are proposing are based on both scientific research data and on the results we received from our initial consultation. It has not been an easy decision, as many people will be affected. However, we risk seeing the further decline of salmon across England if we do not act now.

“The majority of people who responded to our initial consultation agreed that more needed to be done to protect salmon. We are working hard to improve conditions for all phases of the salmon lifecycle to increase their abundance and diversity. We are also working with partners, water companies and other organisations to deliver these improvements.

“Our work has already seen salmon returning to rivers in England, such as the River Tyne in Northumbria, where they have been extinct for many years. Whilst we realise there is still much to do, we are proud of the work we have achieved with our partners and other organisations, and will continue to work hard to protect this iconic species.”

The EA’s proposed changes to the salmon byelaws have not been suggested lightly. A public consultation was undertaken in 2017, in which over 1,100 responses were received. The majority of the respondents to the consultation agreed that further action was needed.

The results of the initial consultation which ran from August to October 2017, helped inform the proposed byelaws, and can also be viewed online here: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/fisheries/managing-salmon-net-and-rod-fisheries/

The EA has acknowledged and welcomed the significant progress which has been made towards the voluntary adoption of Catch and Release by angling clubs across the country, and the important role they play ensuring salmon in our rivers are protected.

On rivers categorised as “Probably at Risk” anglers have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can reach better than 90% Catch and Release before the EA decides whether to introduce mandatory byelaws.

The Atlantic Salmon Trust, FishPal and Angling Trust produced a YouTube series with Andy Ford from Sky Sports Tight Lines, giving guidance on good Catch & Release practice. This series can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXsDg09-APY7hX9W5F8HA9FoiJjg2FiSe

The EA has recognised that reducing the catch of salmon is not the full solution to the continuing decline of salmon stocks and have committed to working with partners to reduce the impacts on salmon from; barriers such as weirs, water quality, low flows and agricultural pollution.

Kevin Austin, Environment Agency’s Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment said in January:

“The reasons for the decline of salmon are complex, and there is no single solution; reducing the catch of salmon can only partly contribute to the recovery of salmon stocks. We continue to work closely with water companies and other partners to improve water quality and low flows on salmon rivers. We are also investing and working together with partners and other organisations to improve fish passage on schemes up and down the country”.

The Atlantic Salmon Trust have worked with the Environment Agency, Government, Angling Trust, Wild Trout Trust, Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, Rivers Trust and Institute of Fisheries Management to set out an agreed programme of action to restore England’s salmon populations – the Salmon Five Point Approach.

The Salmon Five Point Approach sets out actions to address the key pressures that affect the different life stages of salmon. The priorities are:

  1. Improve marine survival.
  2. Further reduce exploitation by nets and rods.
  3. Remove barriers to migration and enhancing habitat.
  4. Safeguard sufficient flows.
  5. Maximise spawning success by improving water quality.