Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has informed the eight fisherman who use the traditional lave net method of fishing at Black Rock, that they must now return all salmon they catch to the river alive.
Previously, the licences for the fisherman at the Monmouthshire site allowed them to catch a maximum of 15 salmon between the months of June-August. But earlier this year mandatory catch and release of salmon was introduced on all Welsh rivers as part of a range of measures designed to protect declining salmon stocks.
NRW has since undertaken an assessment to identify whether the activity is likely to negatively impact protected sites such as the Severn Estuary European Marine Site and River Usk and Wye Special Area of Conservation (SAC) where salmon are a designated feature.
This involved using NRWs own data and expertise, as well as consulting with other organisations such as Natural England.
The assessment concluded that the licences should only be granted on a catch and release basis to give the species the best possible chance to survive and continue to breed.
Jon Goldsworthy, Operations Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:
“The tradition of lave net fishing at Black Rock has been passed down through generations and is an important part of the history and heritage of the area.
“We do not want to stop the fishermen from using lave nets at Black Rock, but we do need them to change their practice, as other netsmen and anglers have done throughout Wales.
“While we recognise that it’s only a very small number of fish caught by the fishermen each year, every spawning fish matters and even relatively small additions to the spawning stock can make a big difference in improving numbers.”
NRW began discussions about catch and release fishing with the netsmen last year and is aware that a traditional lave net fishery in England is already operating on a catch and release basis.
“We are continuing discussions with the fishermen about the practicalities of returning their catch and hope to find a way to secure the future of the fishery, while protecting the sustainability of salmon stocks for future generations.”
NRW is legally obliged to assess and issue licences for viable fisheries, despite the Covid-19 restrictions currently in place. Those issued with licences are still expected to follow the latest government advice on social distancing.