Disappointing news -again!!!!

4 Mar

If you thought that the issue of netting for migratory fish of the northeast coast had been resolved, then think again. The Environment Agency have just released information on the trial development of a newly designed ‘T’ net for the sole purpose of catching sea trout. The net is intended to take sea trout whilst allowing the majority of salmon to escape? Yes honestly!!!

This is despite all of the northeast rivers being classified for sea trout as ‘probably at risk’ with the Coquet classified ‘at risk’  even though netting is being allowed to continue in the Coquet conservation area.

If the new nets are successful in catching a lot of sea trout but letting salmon escape then the sea trout season will be extended from the May 31st close until the end of August as in previous years.

Below is the Environment Agency’s explanation and reasoning behind the new net trials. What they don’t say of course is why they are doing this? There can’t be a single licence paying game angler out there who can understand why this is going on when migratory fish stocks both salmon and sea trout are in such significant decline. Shortly there will be no migratory fish left for anglers or nets men. Conservation forget it!!!!

From the Environment Agency:-

FAQs: New sea trout only beach net trials in the Yorkshire and NE coastal net fishery

What is being proposed?

We are proposing to run a carefully monitored trial of modified designs of T nets and J nets which are less likely to take salmon in 2019, to determine whether a sea trout only net fishery with a minimal impact on salmon could be extended to the end of August, in line with the historic beach netting season.

What will the new nets look like?

T nets

The proposed design is a modification of the existing Northumbrian T net. The exact specification of the new net is still being finalised, but in principle, there would be a nylon netting leader as at present, leading to a headpiece forming the current T shape, with the open court of the headpiece leading on each side to two arms comprising the terminal T.

On each side of the headpiece, two sheets of netting set at right angles to the side netting, with a free gap in the net to allow fish passage, will form inscales creating two boxes or traps. The modified design is that the side netting in the last box forming the end of the headpiece at each side of the T would be removed, allowing fish which pass into this last box through the two inscales to escape the trap.

The design of the net relies upon behavioural differences between salmon and sea trout, whereby sea trout have been observed to be much more likely to become entangled, snagged or gilled in the netting comprising the court and boxes of the T net, whereas salmon typically avoid entanglement and remain free swimming, eventually making their way through the inscales into the end boxes of the T net. With the side netting removed from this end box, this design could allow salmon to exit the net to the open sea.

As at present, licensees will be required to attend the net closely at all times in a boat whilst the net was fishing, and remove and release any salmon or grilse that became snagged or entangled in the net. The free gap in each of the nets forming the inscales will be maintained at all times, and the net configured and anchored in such a way as to maintain free- movement to escape the net.

J nets

We are also proposing to undertake a similar trial of a J net constructed in accordance with existing Regional Fisheries Byelaws but comprised entirely of nylon netting (i.e. with no monofilament in the J comprising the headpiece) in District 5 (Filey Bay).

When are these trials going to begin?

The net trials are planned to commence after the new shorter fishing seasons this year, so for District 1 this would be from 1 June to not later than 31 August.

It may be that licensees elect to begin the season with modified nets, as they have been required to return any salmon captured in the pre-June period since the Spring Salmon byelaws first came into effect in 1999, and the new net design would make the release of salmon easier, as salmon are expected in large degree to swim through the nets without being entangled.

For Districts 5, the modified J net trial is planned for the period after the close of the new netting season in July, running for the month of August.

If the trials show that unacceptable numbers of salmon are injured or killed, they will be curtailed.

How many netsmen will be involved?

All beach netsmen are entitled to volunteer to participate in new net trials if they wish to. The eventual level of uptake is not clear at present, and will in part be determined by each licensee’s evaluation of the economic benefits of participating in a sea trout only net fishery as opposed to alternative commercial activities.

In the event that there are a large number of applicants, we will determine a means to select participants. Only licensees holding a 2019 licence are eligible to apply to participate in the new net trial.

Participation in any future sea trout fishery we may licence using the new type nets would not be restricted to those licensees who participated in the trial, but would be restricted to current T and J net licensees, as the fishery would be regulated by the 2012 Net Limitation Order.

How will the trials be monitored?

The performance of the new net will be carefully assessed. The details of the assessment are still being confirmed, but will include detailed catch records being maintained by participating licensees – including for each day fished the number and weight of all individual sea trout landed, and the number and weight of any salmon captured and their condition when they were released and whether there were any mortalities.

Environment Agency fisheries enforcement and scientific staff will also undertake land based observations of netting operations, inspections of catches as they are landed and observations from boats undertaking netting assessing the performance of the net in different weather, sea state and visibility conditions and different locations.

We intend to use video and photographic evidence to record the behaviour of salmon and sea trout encountering the net, the fish being recovered from the net and the general mode of operation of the net fishery.

Our monitoring programme is being designed to provide a robust assessment of the potential for salmon entering the net to reliably exit unharmed but for sea trout to be retained

(although the design is likely to see a proportion of the sea trout entering the headpiece to escape as well as salmon).

At present resource requirements are still being developed and will depend both on the final monitoring programme design, the level of uptake for participation in the trials, and the location of participants.

What will success look like?

Our success criteria are summarised below:

  • No increase in the level of exploitation of sea trout in any district above current levels.
  • An interception* rate for salmon not exceeding 5% of the total sea trout net catch.
  • Minimal physical damage (scale loss etc) to enmeshed or entangled salmon.
  • Levels of immediate mortality of enmeshed or entangled salmon at or approaching zero.
  • All released salmon observed to make good recovery post release.

*Interception being defined as salmon becoming entangled, gilled or otherwise physically retained or impeded by the net such that physical intervention is required to allow their release.

How the condition of untangled and released salmon will be assessed and verified?

Using photographic, video and observer recording of any physical damage such as scale loss or bleeding, and notes on the condition of each fish released, together with logbook returns detailing the condition of salmon entangled in the net.

A successful trial would see the large majority of salmon pass through the net without becoming entangled and requiring any intervention to allow release

Will there be any provision to share results during the trial?

We will report the results of the trial fully. The degree to which in-trial updates will be available would be determine by a number of factors including the numbers of netsmen participating.

What opportunities may be available for independent scrutiny of the trials or results?

We will offer interested key stakeholders the opportunity to make field visits to observe the new design of nets in operation. A report of our results will also be published.

How would a new net fishery be licensed?

In the event that the trial proved successful, a sea trout only fishery using a modified design of T net could only be confirmed by introducing a new regional fisheries byelaw.

Any new byelaw would require the formal processes of stakeholder consultation, presentation of evidence, advertisement and confirmation by the Secretary of State.

Views would be sought from all interested parties and any objections received would be carefully evaluated in making our final decision.

Would a new net fishery be covered by the 2012 NLO?

Any new net fishery would also be subject to the provisions of the 2018 national byelaws, regional fisheries byelaws (confirmed 1995) the provisions of the 2012 Net Limitation Order, the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and all other relevant legislation.


Durham Hydro – latest update!

17 Feb

A meeting between the Wear Anglers Association, the Environment Agency and Durham County Council  was held at the end of 2018 in a further attempt to resolve the problem of migratory fish entering the Archimedes Screw chamber.

The main points to emerge from this meeting were:

• The strobe lighting hasn’t worked! It has now been turned off and will be removed shortly.

• Durham County Council still don’t want to install fine mesh screens at the base of the chamber because of the difficulty in maintaining the screens and the loss of water head. With finer screens the water velocity increases and the head reduces. They are of the opinion that this head loss is unacceptable and the turbine will automatically shut down. Calculations were produced to support this theory.

• The Environment Agency produced an interesting photograph of the scheme on the River Ettrick at Selkirk where there are no issues with migrating fish. However, the photograph shows the fish pass on the outside (river side) of the screw chamber outlet and not the inside (bankside) as at Durham.

• Durham County Council now intend introducing a scheme to stop fish jumping into the screw chamber that consists of 250 mm wide overlapping flaps of heavy duty plastic. This is very similar to the plastic flap doors used on warehouses and walk in freezers. There will be a stack of flaps of different lengths so that as the water rises the longest ones will lift up but leave the shorter ones behind hanging vertically down wards. A similar scheme  is in use on an Archimedes Screw on the Yorkshire Esk but for sound reduction not to prevent fish jumping into the screw chamber.

• The Environment Agency are planning to replace the central and lowest “pool and traverse” fish pass opposite the screw by a small Larnier fish pass. It is hoped that this new pass will be installed in the summer of 2019. This may help draw fish away from the screw as they migrate up the south side of the river and then swim across the face of the lower weir. In addition the fish passage at the Fulling Mill weir is also being looked at.

  • There is considerable disappointment and frustration in angling circles that this issue is taking so long to resolve. If the new ‘flap system’ does not work then legal action may follow!

Kielder Hatchery.

12 Jan
Atlantic salmon are under threat but a North East hatchery which is celebrating its 40th anniversary has helped bring them back to the River Tyne.
Richard Bond releases young sea trout
Richard Bond releases young sea trout (Image: unknown)

Salmon were once so plentiful in the Tyne it is said that apprentices had clauses inserted in their indentures restricting the number of times employers could serve up the fish for dinner. And in Berwick, servants had a similar stipulation restraining their masters from dishing up.

But by the 1950s, salmon had vanished from the by then grossly-polluted Tyne.

Today, the salmon are back, largely through major improvements in water quality, while the Kielder hatchery in Northumberland has also played a significant part in restoring fish stocks.

Salmon eggs hatching at Kielder
Salmon eggs hatching at Kielder (Image: unknown)

The recovery of the Tyne and its current status as the best river in England and Wales for salmon rod catches is a bright spot in a picture of concerns over a marked decline in the abundance of Atlantic salmon across the species’ geographical range over the last 15-20 years.

To highlight the situation and the importance of the species, 2019 has been declared International Year of the Salmon. The Kielder salmon hatchery, run by the Environment Agency, will be holding events. But this year will be a special one for the hatchery for other reasons. It is the 40th anniversary of the first salmon bred by the hatchery being released into the Tyne.

Richard Bond releases young salmon and sea trout
Richard Bond releases young salmon and sea trout (Image: unknown)

It will also be the first full year for the £100,000 refurbished visitor centre at the hatchery, which tells the story of the salmon’s life cycle and also features a tank which replicates the underwater world of the North Tyne, containing salmon, bullhead, stone loach, minnow, dace and lamprey. It is also the year when the first hatchery-raised juvenile freshwater pearl mussels, in danger of extinction in the North Tyne, will be released into the wild.

The hatchery was set up to produce 160,000 juvenile salmon a year for stocking the Tyne to compensate for the loss of the Kielder Burn spawning grounds, which were cut off from the river by the building of the Kielder reservoir.

Richard Bond releases young sea trout
Richard Bond releases young sea trout (Image: unknown)

For seven years the hatchery also stocked an additional 200,000 salmon to mitigate for the river disruption from the building of the second Tyne Tunnel and incidents of mortality of adult fish returning to spawn from incidents of low oxygen levels in the estuary.

Last year the hatchery stocked 360,000 salmon and 20,000 sea trout in the Tyne and its tributaries. That included 4,000 sea trout offspring introduced into the Ouseburn for the first time, and also the River Team.

This year the stocking target for the Tyne catchment is 300,000 salmon and 20,000 sea trout.

Around 40,000 juvenile salmon will go into the Kielder Burn. When the fish grow to be smolts – ready to migrate to sea usually after two years – they are captured in a trap and carried around the reservoir to be released into the Tyne at Falstone.

Tagged fish have shown that the 107km journey down the river to the sea can take up to 36 days – and as little as four.

Salmon eggs hatching at Kielder
Salmon eggs hatching at Kielder (Image: unknown)

Estuary mortality for returning adults can be caused by a combination of factors such as hot, dry summers and neap – or small – tides which means lack of freshwater flow, leading to low oxygen levels. The last bad year was 2003 when around 1,000 fish died.

During the hot weather last summer, Kielder reservoir played a vital role in reducing the risk of fish deaths in the upper estuary. Additional releases of water from the reservoir made by Northumbrian Water at the Environment Agency’s request between June 22 and August 10 amounted to 35 billion litres.

Phil Rippon the fisheries technical specialist for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “We continuously monitor the oxygen levels in the estuary during conditions such as we saw in the summer and do what we can to help migrating fish reach their spawning grounds.

The hatchery's Jess Anson releasing salmon and sea trout into the River Tyne tributaries
The hatchery’s Jess Anson releasing salmon and sea trout into the River Tyne tributaries (Image: unknown)

“This includes additional releases of water from Kielder reservoir to increase freshwater flows when oxygen levels in the estuary become critical. Previous research from similar summer conditions has shown that releases from Kielder sometimes triggers upstream movement of salmon and sea trout, helping them during hot and dry conditions.

“These additional releases have undoubtedly saved many salmon in 2018.”

Over the last eight years, an annual average of 30,000 salmon have returned naturally to the Tyne.

The hatchery has stabilised this improvement, as has the removal of obstacles to help fish reach their spawning grounds. It begins its breeding programme in November by capturing 55 pairs of returning adults. Eggs are fertilised at the hatchery and the young fish are gown on and set free in the summer.

Kielder salmon centre staff Jess Anson (left) and Richard Bond (right) with Environment Agency North East area director Oliver Harmar (centre)
Kielder salmon centre staff Jess Anson (left) and Richard Bond (right) with Environment Agency North East area director Oliver Harmar (centre) (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Schools are given 100 eggs each so that pupils can watch the hatching and growing process, ending in them releasing their fish.

A female salmon lays between 6,000-7,000 eggs and it is estimated that around two will survive to go on and become spawning fish.

“At the visitor centre, people can learn about the life cycle of the salmon and their incredible journey from the Tyne to Greenland and back,” said hatchery manager Richard Bond. The visitor centre is open from April-September.

The hatchery’s bid to save the North Tyne’s freshwater mussel began in 2003. A total breeding stock of 81 mussels are now in an artificial stream outside the hatchery.

The mussels begin to breed at 15 to 20 years old and can live to be more than 100. But no mussels younger than 40 to 50 years old have been found in the North Tyne.

“If nothing was done in 15 to 20 years the population would become so small that it would not survive,” said Richard.

The female mussel produces two to four million barely visible juveniles which float in the water and seek to attach themselves to the gills of trout. Months later they drop off and settle on the bed of the river.

This year 768 two-year-old mussels raised by the hatchery will be released into the wild.

“We are absolutely delighted to have managed to raise the first North Tyne mussels bred in captivity, with the aim of preventing the population from becoming extinct,” said Richard.