NRW has released latest stock assessments for salmon and sea trout in Wales
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has today (25 July 2022) published the 2021 salmon stock assessments for 23 principal salmon rivers in Wales (including 3 cross-border rivers) based upon the latest available data.
Salmon and sea trout (sewin) are both iconic species in Wales, requiring high quality freshwater habitats to thrive and are a key indicator of the environmental quality of river catchments, while also providing important opportunities for healthy and valuable recreation.
In 2021 Wales recorded the lowest catches of both salmon and sea trout since consistent records began in 1970s.
Ben Wilson, Principal Fisheries Officer for NRW, said:
“This represents the worst level of salmon and sea trout stock performance ever recorded in Wales and is of major concern indicating that many stocks are now in serious trouble and at risk of failing to maintain sustainable populations in the future.
“This is a clear indication that we must redouble our efforts to tackles the decline in fish numbers.
“These declines are replicated in most other countries across the North Atlantic distribution of salmon and their European range, where populations have declined over the past few decades.
“This has been most evident for salmon, but recently a sharp decline in Welsh sea trout stocks has also occurred particularly in south and south west Wales.”
The full stock assessment results have been published in the annual salmon stock assessment report for England and Wales that has been co-authored with Cefas and the Environment Agency and can be found here :-
Wales has 23 principal salmon river catchments for which stock assessments are undertaken and reported upon annually. The results from the latest assessment have shown that 91%, 21 salmon rivers in Wales are now categorised as being At Risk, and 9% Probably at Risk. No rivers were categorised Not at Risk or Probably Not at Risk.
In addition, Wales has 33 main sea trout rivers – No rivers classed as ‘Not at Risk’ , four rivers (12%) as Probably Not at Risk , eight rivers (24%) as Probably at Risk and 21 rivers (64%) as At Risk.
“In 2020 we introduced Catch and Release byelaws to help protect for salmon and sea trout across Wales, and we have seen anglers and netters react positively to these. Unfortunately, there is no single ‘magic’ solution to protect and re-build vulnerable stocks and we must continue to work on a wide range of initiatives to make our rivers healthier and safer for salmon and sea trout.
“We need to improve river water quality and stop acute and diffuse agricultural pollution, as well as tackling Water Industry incidents. We must also remove barriers to migration and protect stocks from unsustainable predation.
“Given the further risk from climate change ensuring that our rivers have clean, cool water to support salmon and trout is essential
“Many partners have important roles to play when stocks are at such low levels and any additions to the wild spawning stocks in our rivers are particularly valuable when stocks are at such low levels.”
NRW has an ongoing river restoration programme to improve habitats and remove barriers ensuring fish have safe passage to spawning grounds and is working with stakeholders and partners on implementing an agreed revised policy approach regarding fish eating birds.”
In 2020, NRW published the Natural Resources Wales / Salmon and sea trout plan of action 2020
The plan set out nine key themes in tackling the salmonid emergency :
- Managing exploitation,
- Protecting stocks through effective enforcement,
- Tackling physical habitat constraints in the freshwater environment,
- Safeguarding water quality and quantity,
- Addressing land management, and associated risks to water quality,
- Addressing predation on salmonids: fish-eating birds and seals,
- Understanding marine pressures,
- Understanding new and emerging potential pressures.
The measures for the management of our fisheries and protection and restoration of fisheries habitat. developed by the Plan of Action, along with the England and Wales NASCO “Implementation Plan” for 2019-24, will be taken over five year periods
Actions have included reducing exploitation of salmon by both net and rod fisheries. Since 2020 all salmon caught in Wales must now be released. Rod fisheries have achieved a release rate across Wales of some 86% of sea trout through both voluntary and mandatory controls.
“The continued decline in salmon and sewin stock numbers means that every fish that reaches its spawning ground or is returned safely to the water after being caught could contribute to improving fish populations and even relatively small numbers of fish are crucial to recover stocks in as short as time as possible.
“Moving forward we will continue to work closely with all those for whom the health our rivers, fish stocks and fisheries are important, to ensure salmon once again thrive in our rivers.”