Des and Eva!

16 Feb

At a well attended evening meeting on Wednesday 12th February at Willington Cricket Club members and guests of the Wear Angling Association met representatives of the Environment Agency to discuss the recent dramatic fall in the numbers of migratory fish returning to the rivers Tyne and Wear.

With the aid of several overhead graphical illustrations the EA demonstrated in the last few seasons. the sharp decline in stocks not only on local rivers but also throughout the country.

From the information presented the following appeared to be evident:-

  • The floods created by storms Eva and Desmond in 2015/16 had a serious impact on local rivers. Storm Desmond was the worst the Tyne experienced since 1956 and the third worst ever on the Wear.

  • With storm Desmond it was not necessarily the scale of the damaged but the actual timing, being almost immediately after the spawning season. The EA expressed the view that although most redds were reasonably stable they were unable to withstand excessive and repeated washouts.

  • Surprisingly, the number of smolts recorded in rivers in the following seasons 2018/19 were reported to be back to normal.

What was more worrying however was the apparent decline in the numbers of grilse and two winter salmon returning to not only local northern rivers but rivers throughout the country. Graphs for rivers such as the Towey, Itchen, Test and the welsh Dee were almost identical in their profile showing that whilst spring fish numbers were constant autumn fish numbers have been falling for a number of years. This is one of the factors behind the “Missing Smolts Programme” and highlights the need for further research both in marine and river environments to try and understand the decline.

In the following informal questions and answers part of the meeting, discussion centred around restocking and hatcheries. It is clear from the EA’s response that restocking is no longer considered a viable option by policy makers. The EA believe that restocked fish do not survive as well as naturally bred fish and have a tendency to weaken the natural strain.

In conclusion it seems that the EA believe that the situation will improve, perhaps in the short term. Restocking is out, in expectation that stocks will naturally recover to pre 2015/16 levels, however storms Ciara and Dennis may influence that view. Only time will tell.

Durham Hydro – big end goes again!

7 Feb

Well not the “big end” actually but the bottom bearing!

Yes, not for the first time the Durham Hydro at Freeman’s Reach is out of action and has been for at least five weeks due to the failure of the  Archimedes Screw bottom bearing.

Apparently a crane is required to lift the screw to allow access to the bearing.

Most anglers and fish conservationists would be happy not to see the screw returned as the screw chamber makes a fantastic fish pass.

We live in hope!

Expansion of the Sea trout netting season.

28 Jan
The Environment Agency are currently seeking views on extending the Sea Trout netting season. The following is a template for anyone who wishes to complete the consultation document. 
All fishing clubs, individual anglers and riparian owners are encouraged to take part in the consultation and can use this response in anyway they see fit. Only by being involved can everyone connected with game angling influence the future of the sport. The consultation document can be found at:-
Consultation response:-
1. Environment Agency figures show that at this point in time sea trout and salmon stocks are in a perilous state not only in local North East rivers but throughout the UK and Northern Europe; the perilous state of these stocks is clearly outlined in the Environmental Agency Consultation document. It is therefore vital that nothing is done to put the protection and recovery of these stocks in jeopardy and that any decision made in extending the sea trout net fishing season follows a precautionary approach. It is for these reasons that at the current time anglers should favour Option 1:  Maintain the current netting season with no extension.
2. The Consultation also asks about the use of the modified T and J nets. As trials of the modified T nets have shown that they are successful in reducing the number of salmon caught then, again following the precautionary principle, it is believed whatever option is finally decided the use of the modified nets should immediately become compulsory.
3. If Option 2, 3 or 4 is finally selected, or when sea trout and salmon stocks recover to the extent there is a surplus available for harvesting, then it is vital that the number of fish harvested is rigorously monitored by the EA. In such circumstances the EA should be proactive in controlling the number of fish harvested through strict annual quotas. 
4. There are very real concerns about netting in the marine Conservation areas. Surely a Conservation area is just that; in this case an area that is a save haven where salmon and sea trout can swim unmolested. We firmly believe netting in the Tyne and Coquet Conservation areas should cease immediately (as proposed in section 5.2.13 of the 2018 EA report “Managing salmon fisheries in England and on the Border Esk”).  This view is reinforced by the position of the netting stations at Alnmouth, Amble and South Shields shown in the photographs on pages 23-25 of the report on the trials of the modified designs of T and J nets. These netting stations are very close to mouths of the Aln, Coquet and Tyne respectively, questioning the acceptability of netting so close to the mouth of these rivers. We note that the South Shields berth caught 1991 sea trout during the 2019 trial. This is 11.5% of the total number of sea trout AND salmon that migrated up the Tyne in 2019.

Consultation on the potential extension to the Yorkshire and North East coastal sea trout netting season

23 Jan

Here below is an invitation from the Environment Agency to get involved in consultations with regard to the extension to the Yorkshire and North East coastal sea trout netting season.

It is imperative that all anglers get involved. Sea trout and salmon stocks are in perilous state and only by objecting to this proposal can anglers hope to contain the situation. Sea trout stocks in local rivers are not sustainable and extending the netting season will only make matters significantly worse. Your fishing is now at risk, please act now before it is too late.

The following is an email invitation from Jon Shelley, Fisheries Programme Manager for the Environment Agency:-

Today the Environment Agency began a five week consultation to seek views on the potential to extend the beach netting season for sea trout in Yorkshire and the North East. The closing date for this consultation is 21 February 2020. Please share this email with anyone you feel may have an interest.

We are asking interested parties to provide us with relevant information, and indicate their preference or recommendations for the future management of the net fishery.

Our first priority is the conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks, but we are mindful of the impact of our regulations on commercial netsmen.  We are seeking to achieve the best balance between providing vulnerable stocks with necessary protection and minimising the economic impacts for netsmen by allowing a sea trout net fishery as far as this is sustainable and consistent with providing adequate protection for fish stocks.

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.

The results of trials of modified designs of T and J nets undertaken last year show that the modified nets proved successful in intercepting sea trout whilst only entangling a small number of salmon, and that the impact on salmon stocks from the modified nets was low. The impact of an extended sea trout net fishery on sea trout stocks is less certain, since large numbers of sea trout were caught during the trial period. The results of the trials are available in a report on the consultation website, together with a report setting out options for the future management of the net fishery. Paper copies of these reports are available on request.

Our latest stock assessments indicate the majority of the salmon populations in England exposed to the beach net fishery are probably at risk, emphasising the need to prohibit exploitation of salmon in coastal nets. A number of salmon populations in Scotland contributing to the net fishery are also assessed as requiring management action to reduce exploitation of the stock to zero in 2020. The latest assessments of sea trout stocks contributing to the coastal net fishery also indicate many of these stocks are probably at risk, indicating a precautionary management approach should be adopted.

We will carefully consider all responses we receive and use this information, together with the latest evidence on the status of contributing stocks of salmon and sea trout and the impact of the net fishery on those stocks, to better inform our decision making.

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. Any proposals to extend the netting season would require amendments to national and regional fisheries byelaws, formal advertisement and a response to any objections raised. Any byelaw changes we might make would require confirmation by the Secretary of State before they came into effect.

Responses to this consultation may be made online at: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/north-east/yorkshire-and-north-east-coastal-sea-trout-fishery/

By email to: jonathan.shelley@environment-agency.gov.uk

Editors note:

Formal guidance will be posted here in the next few days for those seeking help with their response.