Welsh anglers are again being asked to help conserve struggling fish stocks by releasing all the salmon they catch between now and the end of the season
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is making the plea following review of monitoring data that show salmon stocks in some rivers in Wales – notably the Usk, Tywi and Clwyd - face an ‘unprecedented’ threat thanks to a dramatic drop in the number of salmon fry.
Dave Mee, senior fisheries advisor for NRW, said:
“The salmon is an important part of our environment and our culture in Wales and angling makes a big contribution to the rural economy. We have to take steps now to look after our stocks.
“The last few weeks of the season often see the highest catches, and we urgently need to ensure that every effort is made to give enough salmon as possible the chance to spawn and produce more juvenile fish to help boost stocks.”
At present an average of 78% of Welsh salmon are released after being caught, but this includes the period prior to 16th June each year, when catch and release fishing is already required by byelaw, and also the Wye and Taff where catch and release is required throughout the season.
The true voluntary catch and release rate, where anglers have a choice, is just over 50% across Wales.
Figures from the Wye and Taff, where full catch and release byelaws are in place, suggest that this can have a quick and positive effect on fish stocks without affecting angler numbers or the related economic benefits.
The Ogmore Angling Association is one example where anglers have already unilaterally introduced their own rules to ensure 100% of the salmon caught are released without the need for legislation. This is an option open to all anglers, angling clubs and private fisheries.
“NRW is stepping up its efforts to discover the cause of the decline, which may be related to the highest December temperatures on record in 2015, but in the meantime anglers can play their part by practising voluntary catch and release.”
“The number of salmon migrating back into our rivers is worryingly low and combined with the unprecedented decline in fry numbers this year means that we need every adult fish to have the chance of spawning.
“Many anglers are already voluntarily practising catch and release and have been doing so for many years, but now we feel the situation is so serious for salmon that we must urgently ask anglers to release all of their salmon while we consider what future controls may be required.”
Rhys Llywelyn Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association President added:
“Clearly every salmon should be spared for spawning and we will need to look at exploitation in the future. The salmon's life strategies and resilience will compensate to some extent, so we are still left with the important need to continue restoration of all our rivers.
“It is vital that anglers use methods to ensure that released salmon have the very best chance of survival.
“Using barbless hooks so that fish can be released easily and quickly and not removing the fish from the water while unhooking are two of the key ways to improve survival.
“Keeping a fish in the air for 30-60 seconds literally halves their chance of survival. Imagine running until you’re exhausted then holding your breath? Handling the fish quickly and carefully really can make all the difference.”