Northumbrian Game Fishing Association
Minutes of a Meeting Held at Comrades Club, Morpeth
at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26th October, 2016
1. Chairman’s Welcome
Barry Gibson thanked everyone for attending, made the requisite safety announcements and asked everyone to ensure that mobile phones were set to silent mode or turned off.
2. Apologies for Absence
Apologies had been received from :
The minutes of the previous meeting were read and unanimously approved
4. Matters Arising
Colin Rosemorgan now has a licence that covers all Northumbrian Anglers’ Federation waters.
No other licences were notified to the meeting, but it was thought possible that Westwater Angling may also have obtained one.
Willy Farndale stated that we need to encourage more riparian owners to apply for licences, pointing out in addition that such licences were not only for cormorants, but also covered goosanders. Some people had expressed the opinion that it was difficult to obtain a licence to cover goosanders but this was not true and anyone wishing to obtain one could seek help from Richard Bamforth (telephone 07904 041518 ).
It was also pointed out that the limits for each licence within a river system were transferrable.
The stated aim of the government is to bring an end to drift netting on September 1st 2022.
It was noted that the attempt to ban T and J nets from certain (Scottish) rivers for three years was in breach of EC regulations.
The Chairman pointed out that 85% of all fish taken by nets are from the North East area. District 1 has 25 of the 56 T and J nets and 12 out of the 13 drift nets for the North East, mainly between Newbiggin and Holy Island
Dave Cave reported on a meeting with Dave Shelley of The Environment Agency who is responsible for monitoring the commercial nets, and with Mark Lloyd, who is the Angling Trust’s Chief Executive.
The meeting concentrated on the EA’s 5-point plan and the Net Limitation Order. John Shelley wants to put a quota on the nets as a result of the forthcoming 2017 review of the Net Limitation Order.
The reported net catch of salmon and sea-trout for 2015 was around 78,000, and around 56,000 in 2014; 2016 was expected to be around the same figure. Five years previously this figure had been around 16,000. Against a background of declining and endangered stocks, such an increase in commercial exploitation was unacceptable.
It was also noted that for all the nets and the level of reported catches, there are only four bailiffs to police the North East area.
Expectations were not high for any significant changes in the near future, and neither The National Trust nor the Rivers Trust had been informed of anything.
Dave also reminded the meeting that the North East was designated as a mixed stock fishery (with migratory fish destined for Scottish rivers as well as the North East area). The nets in Scotland have been bought out, but the EA will not make this compulsory in the North East as the fishery has not been demonstrated to be otherwise unsustainable.
Dave Cave also pointed out that many figures may be unreliable, as, for instance, the Wear runs of migratory fish had suspiciously risen last year by 8,000 in a year when the counter was largely out of order and estimates had been used.
Willy Farndale stated that fish were being hammered below the lower dam at Warkworth by seals and cormorants. If the middle were taken out of that dam, this would allow the fish freer passage and reduce predation. A similar improvement had been made at Bothal on the Wansbeck.
5. Global Salmon Stocks
The Chairman introduced this topic by pointing out that problems with declining salmon stocks are not just local, but a world-wide problem.
In San Francisco, the Federal authorities had cut the netting and rod seasons in half, an option that is also within the powers of the EA should they choose to exercise it. This was in reaction to several seasons of low flows and declining stocks, where only 3% of juvenile salmon born made it to the sea.
Scandinavians own some of the salmon farms in Scotland as they don’t want the problems brought by the cages on their own doorstep.
Dave Cave then pointed out that Icelandic and Scandinavian fisheries have resumed taking fish in reaction to the mixed fishery netting in the UK.
The Chairman said that some of the migratory routes in the North Atlantic were changing as currents altered due to climate change, but there were also fish changing routes for other reasons. Many under-nourished fish were now returning, indicating poor feeding grounds. He also used examples from the popular book “Fishing Vignettes” of massive fish kills as a cautionary tale; we need to think of the heritage we will leave for our children and grand-children.
He then mentioned that in 2005, following the seal distemper outbreak, there were massively reduced numbers of seals on the Farne Islands. Bill Hindmarsh also pointed out that in 1975, the last cull had removed 804 pups and 660 adult females.
Willy Farndale regretted that everything seemed out of balance, and we need to redress it, quoting the example of red kites. Rules were being set for the countryside by people who neither lived in it nor understood it. Rab (Federation member and gamekeeper at Wallington) stated that in the last year more than 300 foxes had been taken out of Wallington and pf seven people in the shoot 30 years ago, only one remained. Others pointed out that one of the directors of the National Trust had banned the shooting on their property of any members of the crow family, despite the damage they do.
It was generally agreed that we, the anglers, need to take back control of our sport. Dave Cave urged everyone to lobby through the Angling Trust, as this is the only body that represents us.
6. Seeking recognition of declining migratory fish stocks
The Chairman then introduced this topic by drawing attention to the EA 2009 Report on the Economic Value of Angling.
He also drew attention to recent reported rod catches:
He also quoted from Environment Agency figures published 4th September 2015 in relation to money raised from North East Salmon licence fees in 2014-15
Full licences 2,565 @ £72 = £184,680
Concessionary 1,582 @ £48 = £75,936
Junior 375 @ £5 = £1,875
8-day 295 @ £23 = £6,785
1-day 1,277 @ £8 = £10,216
Total paid by anglers £279,492
Total licence fees of T & J nets £44,000
For the fees paid, anglers’ interest are grossly unrepresented bearing in mind that rod anglers make the greatest contribution and if the EA was run on a company basis anglers would be the major shareholders.
Dave Cave reinforced these remarks by stating that Felling Fly Fishers Club pays a total of £110,000 per year before a single fish is caught, and there is an average of 2 fish per year per rod.
7. Brown Trout
Willy Farndale reported that the Coquet trout were in dire straits. In his opinion there is no point in stocking if you cannot stock with breeding fish.
Phil Adams stated that there appears to be plenty of trout in the lower Tyne, citing a recent EA coarse match there that caught over 60, but the upper Tyne appears to have very few trout in the last few years.
Dave Cave reported that the position on the Wear is very similar – plenty in the lower river and very few in the upper reaches.
The Chairman expressed regret that there were so many rivers un-represented at this meeting, and Willy Farndale also drew attention to the lack of involvement of riparian owners.
In response to some expressions of dismay, with people wondering whether anything could be done, Dave Cave pointed out that the Wear Angling Association had started out the same way as we had, but that now the EA realise that they are not going to go away and need to be dealt with, so that NGFA should stick with it.
8. North East Fisheries Forum
The Chairman drew attention to this meeting scheduled in one week’s time for the same venue. This would be the first meeting in the area that the EA have ever held and it was very important that it should be well attended. He reported that Mark Owen from the Angling Trust, who attended our last meeting, would also be there.
The Chairman also urged all those asking questions or making points to ensure that these are based on facts, so that they could not be dismissed out of hand. He also suggested that we concentrate on demanding more consultation.
Dave Cave stressed that our main concern must be the number of nets in District 1, and the forthcoming review of the Net Limitation Order.
The Chairman then thanked all for attending, again stressed the need for a good turnout at the North East Forum and closed the meeting.