Salmon and sea trout are iconic species in Wales, but their decline in many rivers has reached a critical point and urgent action is required to return stocks to a sustainable level.
And at its Bangor meeting on Thursday 18 January, the Board of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) approved proposals to recommend new bylaws.
If accepted by the Welsh Government these would introduce statutory catch and release of salmon for all rod and net fisheries in Wales as well as amendments to the type of bait used and methods of fishing.
They would also introduce statutory catch and release of sea trout for part of the season in certain rivers.
Following a detailed discussion by NRW’s Board, it was also agreed that a wider package of measures should sit alongside these changes to ensure the wider goal of the sustainable management of natural resources.
This includes prioritising a river restoration programme and working together more effectively with anglers to deliver these objectives for the benefit of all.
The decision follows last year’s public consultation which saw more than 500 responses from the angling community.
Diane McCrea, Chair of Natural Resources Wales, said: “Opinions from all sides of the debate were fully aired during the discussion.
“We remain concerned that statutory catch-and-release in Wales does not have the full support of the angling community and understand that it is only part of the solution to declining fish stocks.
“However, ultimately the Board felt that this was the right option – we have a duty to do what we can to conserve stocks and the fewer fish that are killed, the better the chances of the population recovering.”
Peter Gough, Principal Fisheries Advisor for NRW, said:
“Salmon and sea trout populations in Welsh rivers are in serious decline and we have to do all we can and as soon as we can to save them.
“As we expected, there was a great deal of interest in our proposals and we have taken account of the views of anglers by amending some of our original proposals where appropriate.
“We need to make these changes to our byelaws to help reverse the ongoing decline in salmon sea trout stocks in Welsh rivers.
“This is a difficult action for us to take but the plight of salmon and sea trout is such that we have to recommend that the Welsh Government introduces these new bylaws to help maintain stocks for the future.
“And this is just one of the measures we’re taking. We’re also looking to change the way we tackle illegal fishing, reduce pollution and improve water quality, which we believe will also contribute their survival in Welsh rivers.”
We will now apply to Welsh Government for confirmation of the proposed byelaws.