Fish stocks have reached unprecedented lows in Welsh rivers in recent years and the future of many fisheries is now threatened.
Estimated to be worth more than £100 million in Wales, supporting around 1,500 jobs, and with the overall value of angling-related tourism being even higher, it is vital to protect the fishing industry now and for future generations.
But there are continuing concerns around the numbers of salmon returning to Welsh rivers. There are not enough adult fish spawning to sustain stocks or to prevent further decline.
To help tackle these concerns, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is consulting on several actions aimed at helping to reverse the trend and help this iconic species play a continuing role in our environment and culture.
In August, NRW launched a consultation on catch controls for rivers wholly in Wales but this excluded the cross-border rivers with England.
Now it is extending the consultation to include the Welsh parts of the cross-border rivers, the Dee and Wye.
The Environment Agency will be carrying out an identical consultation on the English parts of the Dee and Wye, ensuring that integrated solutions are rolled-out on the two rivers.
Ceri Davies, NRW’s Executive Director of Evidence Policy and Permitting, said:
"The decline in the number of salmon migrating back into most of our rivers is now so serious that we need to give more adult fish the chance to spawn to aid the survival of the species in Welsh waters.
“Organisations such as the Wye and Usk Foundation have made fantastic efforts, restoring connectivity and habitats, improving water quality and fisheries.
“These measures along with the past catch controls have helped produce some encouraging signs of recovery.
“On the River Dee we have already asked anglers to voluntarily release the salmon they catch but we now feel it’s time to introduce further controls.
“We have been discussing how fish stocks can be improved with local fisheries interest groups across the country for more than two years and we are now keen to seek views from the wider public on our new proposals.
“A briefing on the status of our salmon and sea trout stocks in Wales, including the Dee and Wye, and our proposals as well as information on how people can have their say, can be found on our website.”
In addition, measures to ensure released fish have the best chance of survival, including the use of barbless hooks, a ban on treble hooks and use of bait, are also being proposed.
The consultation begins on 13 November 2017 and runs until 5 February 2018.
The proposals include:
Mandatory catch and release of salmon on the River Dee
- Mandatory catch and release for sea trout before 1 May on the River Dee
- A 60cm maximum size length limit for sea trout, in line with all other rivers in Wales, to help protect larger predominantly female sea trout on the Dee
- Method restrictions (bait and treble hooks) so that released fish have an improved chance of survival. These will apply to both the Dee and the Wye
These measures will not affect the extensive 10 year catch controls that have been in place on the Wye since 2012 and are not due to expire until 2021.
The new byelaws would be in place for 10 years, with a comprehensive review into their effectiveness after five years.
Ceri Davies added:
“After carefully considering wide ranging views and evidence, we have concluded that we cannot continue to take salmon while stocks are in such a parlous state
“We have not taken the decision to call for these changes lightly and we realise that these measures on their own will not resolve the complex issue of declining salmon stocks.
“However they should help address the reluctance of some to respond to our repeated pleas over the past few years to release all fish.
“This practice is the norm for responsible anglers on all of our rivers, and we thank those who have elected to do their bit for the sustainability of our stocks.
“We want to work with the angling community to protect our fish and fisheries for future generations to enjoy.
“We believe that the introduction of new controls will be a positive step in helping protect stock.
“Crucially these measures will coincide with a wider package of measures to address all of the pressures that adversely affect our fish stocks in Wales”
Further information is available at naturalresources.wales/crossbordercontrols
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