River Wear – Crisis?

16 Jan
The Wear Anglers Association have recently emailed the Environment Agency with regard to the apparent collapse of migratory fish stocks entering the River Wear in 2019. The following is a reply on behalf of the agency by Jon Shelley, Fishery Programme Manager:-
” Thank you for your mail which I have passed on to the Fisheries Technical team, who are better placed to provide an update on Wear fish stocks than I am. Someone from the team will be in touch soon.
Regarding the net fishery, we will very shortly publish a full report and all data from the net trials we undertook in 2019, together with an accompanying report setting out options for future management of the fishery. We will then consult with interested parties to seek views on the best and most appropriate management of the beach net fishery.
I will, of course, invite you to participate in this consultation. Following the consultation, a summary of all submissions received will be published, and we will make our recommendations for the future management of the net fishery.
In advance of this consultation, I have provided a summary below – which you are free to share with anyone who may have an interest:
The new netting season date are as follows:
District 1:          26 March – 31 May
District 2:          No licences
District 3:          26 March – 30 June
District 4:          26 March – 31 July
District 5:          26 March – 31 July
District 6:          26 March – 31 August
District 7:          26 March – 31 August
The 2019 net trial provided a substantial amount of new data to better inform our understanding of the operation of modified designs of T and J nets. The North East trial comprised 771 hours of netting in 87 separate netting events over an 11 week period. The data provided by logbook returns from licensed netsmen were validated by over 92 hours of independent fisheries observations and video surveillance of the operation of the nets by Environment Agency officers.
In the North East, a total of 3342 sea trout and 46 salmon were landed during the trial. Based on comparison with recent historic catches at the trial berth locations, this represents a 97% reduction in salmon catch, whereas sea trout catches were only reduced by around 30%. All 46 salmon entangled were released from the net and returned to sea with the minimum of delay. There were no immediate mortalities of salmon recorded, all fish were returned to the sea alive, generally with minimal to moderate scale loss.
The trial in Yorkshire comprised a total of 14 netting events, over which 81 hours of netting were undertaken. The data provided by logbook returns from the trial berth were validated by over 36 hours of independent fisheries observations and video surveillance of the operation of the nets by Environment Agency officers.
In Yorkshire, a total of 67 sea trout and 4 salmon were landed during the trial. Based on comparison with recent historic catches, salmon catches were around 74% lower than the recent average for this berth, with sea trout catches around 64% lower than average. Four salmon were entangled during the Yorkshire  net trial, three of which were returned with no recorded significant injuries. The fourth salmon entangled was intercepted by a seal and killed before it could be released.
Our first priority is the conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks, but we are mindful of the impact of regulations on commercial netsmen.  We will seek to achieve the best balance between providing vulnerable stocks with necessary protection and minimising the economic impacts on netsmen by allowing a sea trout net fishery as far as this is sustainable. A number of options have been developed for potentially extending the beach net fishing season for sea trout. Each option would have some degree of impact on the livelihoods of beach net licensees and on the levels of protection provided to the stocks of salmon and sea trout exposed to the net fishery.
Any extension to the sea trout netting season would be dependent on an assessment that contributing sea trout stocks have a surplus available for exploitation, as well as there being a minimal impact on salmon populations.  Any proposals to extend the netting season using modified designs of nets would require amendments to national and regional fisheries byelaws. This would require the publication of relevant evidence, formal advertisement and response to any objections raised, and confirmation of any byelaw changes we might make by the Secretary of State”
Editors Note:-
This is quite clearly a comprehensive reply that leaves all doors open with no particular committed outcome. Whilst the EA’s local office will make recommendations to government on the basis of net catch results and an assessment of the sustainability of migratory fish stocks. Decisions on angling restrictions and the continuation of coastal netting will lie solely with the Secretary of State.
Only 5,000 migratory fish were counted in the River Wear system in 2019  and 8,500 in 2018, this is approximately 11,000 fish below the yearly long term average.
Strong and decisive action is needed now, before it is too late!!!

Salmon; Alarm bells are ringing!

9 Jan

The following is a press release from Fisheries Management Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates which maybe of interest.

  • Leading figures in salmon conservation will meet key politicians at the Scottish Parliament (Tuesday, January 7) to address a looming crisis in wild stocks.

Environmental change, and a range of human impacts across the Northern Hemisphere are placing salmon at risk across their natural range. Today’s event will explore what can be done to reverse this trend and ensure a healthy future for Scotland’s iconic salmon. It will take the form of a round table discussion and evening reception, sponsored by Michelle Ballantyne MSP. A range of other national stakeholders will also take part in the event, seeking agreement on the collective efforts required to save the species.

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland said, “Salmon catches in Scotland have reached the lowest levels ever recorded, and nature is sending us some urgent signals about what could happen next. Official catch figures for recent years, confirm this iconic species is now approaching crisis point.

Some of the factors impacting on wild salmon stocks may be beyond human control. But Scotland’s Government and regulatory authorities now have a historic opportunity to do everything in their power to safeguard the species in those areas where they can make a difference.

Put simply, salmon conservation must become a national priority. Our leaders will be judged by their actions in meeting that challenge.”

Karen Ramoo, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates said, “Scotland has world renowned fishing which significantly contributes environmentally, socially and economically. The environment and the rural economy are at risk if we do not act now to tackle declining salmon numbers. We must aspire to maintain and improve our rivers and lochs to provide good breeding stock whilst a sustainable harvest can be made. Mechanisms to conserve these vulnerable stocks and encourage sustainable economic growth must be encouraged and it is imperative that the right balance is struck between conservation and the interests of those whose livelihood relies on fishing for salmon.

It is important that we recognise current positive management already taking place and seek to build on this while allowing reasonable steps to be taken where stocks are considered unsustainable.”

Michelle Ballantyne MSP said, “As species champion for the Atlantic salmon, I am honoured to be able to sponsor this event in Parliament in the hope of contributing to the conversation on solutions to the threats facing Scotland’s most iconic fish.

With wild salmon stocks approaching crisis point it is now more crucial than ever that we, as politicians, listen to the experts and have a constructive conversation about what can be done to protect and replenish stocks.

Much work is still needed, but by raising awareness of the scale of the challenge, and by bringing together organisations and stakeholders from across the country for this roundtable meeting, we are turning our attention to what can be done legislatively to support wild salmon.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “It is fitting that today’s round table about the future of our iconic wild salmon is taking place at the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. I am pleased also to announce £750,000 of funding for an innovative project between the Scottish Government, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland to work in partnership to track smolt migration on the west coast of Scotland and thereby seek to improve our understanding of this important fish.

The decline in the numbers of wild salmon returning to Scottish rivers is of great concern, and caused by a range of complex factors. That is why the Scottish Government has committed, in its latest Programme for Government, to develop a Wild Salmon Strategy by September 2020.

We will continue to work with key stakeholders such as Fisheries Management Scotland, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fishery Trusts to do everything possible to safeguard the future of Scotland’s wild salmon.”

Joint Press Release from Fisheries Management Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates.

Worms and Flying ‘C’s’ banned!!

9 Jan

It has been confirmed that Northumbrian Anglers Federation has introduced a number of draconian angling restrictions on water it leases from riparian owner Northumbrian Estates (Duke of Northumberland) in order to comply with revised lease requirements imposed by the estates. Rules will apply from 2020 and are as follows:-

  1. Total ban on all worm fishing for migratory fish and trout on the rivers Coquet and Tyne.

  2. Ban on the use of “Flying C’s” on all waters throughout the season.

  3. No spinning permitted in February and October on all waters.

  4. Catch and Release of all fish for the whole of October on all waters.

  5. River Coquet from “Ladies Bridge” to the “Old Race Bridge” to be fly only.

It can only be assumed that these measures have been introduced for conservation reasons.

It is not known at this time if Northumbrian Estates will continue to net Sea -Trout in the Coquet Conservation area during 2020.

Road run-off pollution!

2 Jan

Recently there have been a number of articles in the national press with regard to pollution caused by road run off. Here below is the main thrust of the issue.

Road run off pollution in rivers and canals comes from spills of oil, diesel and petrol and from the wearing of tyres and braking systems which are left as residues that are then washed off the roads by rain and snow and flushed into waterways. Road run off pollution is one of the biggest sources of damage to waterways.

Hundreds of pollutants, including heavy metals, are routinely found in road run off, and they can kill fish or other aquatic life and cause long-term damage to rivers – and potentially to human health, as they can affect drinking water sources, which must be extensively tested and expensively cleaned if pollutants are present.

However, by improving drainage before water treatment is needed, and providing natural barriers and filters, some of the road run off pollution can be prevented from reaching the waterways in the first place. Planting suitable vegetation near waterways can filter out some of the pollution, as can creating or expanding natural wetlands.

It is clear that road run off is a major source of river pollution across the UK, especially in our urban areas, killing aquatic life and making our towns and cities less hospitable. “Wetlands and sustainable drainage systems [are] a key part of the solution. Creating new urban wetlands will capture run off before it gets into our rivers, while providing a range of other benefits, such as flood alleviation, wildlife habitat and improvements to air quality.

John Bryden, the head of improving rivers at Thames21, one of the groups behind new research, recently said: “Pollution from roads is one of the least understood and most complex forms of river pollution. This research can finally help us identify the worst roads and start taking action to deal with this urgent problem.”

One problem with preventing road runoff is that the sources of pollution are under the oversight of various government agencies and departments – the Environment Agency, the Highways Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Department for Transport as well as local authorities. Most of these have faced severe budget cuts in the past decade.

As time progresses it will be interesting to see if the new government will continue to apply current EEC environmental protection measures or strikes out on its own with new standards that may or may not encompass issues such as the above. Early days so the Jury’s still out. As anglers and conservationists we can only hope!