Catch and Release on North East Rivers!

11 Jan

The Environment Agency has released a guidance note as to how the new Salmon byelaws affect northeast rivers with regard to catch and release viz;

The agency has set a target of voluntary catch and release rates in excess of 90% starting from 2019 on rivers assessed to be ‘Probably at Risk’ – ie Tees and Coquet in the North East.

This will be reviewed in 2020 with a view to either continuing the voluntary measures or implementing mandatory catch and release byelaws if the stocks cannot be protected by voluntary means. The decision will be made on a river-by-river basis, determined by local considerations.

For rivers Probably not at Risk – ie Tyne and Wear, the EA hope to achieve high levels of C&R at or approaching 90%, and will work with anglers, the Angling Trust and others to understand how this can be achieved.  If these levels of C&R are not achieved,  the EA will not seek to introduce mandatory C&R unless the performance of the salmon population fell to Probably at Risk, and voluntary measures were proving ineffective in achieving the 90% level.

So whilst the Wear and Tyne remain ‘Probably not at Risk’ (and hopefully subsequently improve to Not at Risk) the EA will maintain voluntary C&R arrangements regardless of actual levels of C&R.

These targets apply only to Salmon and not Sea trout.

The only northeast and Yorkshire rivers to have mandatory catch and release are the Rivers Aln, Blyth, Wansbeck, Tyne Derwent and Warren Burn. and all of the Yorkshire Ouse system including the River Ure.

New Years Honours!

9 Jan

Guardian of North-East rivers awarded British Empire Medal.

DEEPLY HONOURED: Kevin Summerson said he ‘wouldn’t change a thing’ in his long career as a water bailiff, his dedication to which earned him a British Empire Medal medal in the New Year Honours

Kevin Summerson, who lives on the outskirts of Durham city and is currently Senior Technical Specialist on the Fisheries Enforcement Team based in Newcastle, has been the guardian of North-East rivers for 40 years.

The 66-year-old first started work for Northumbrian Water Authority in December 1978 with responsibility for seven minor sewage treatment works before starting work as a water bailiff for the authority in June 1983.

Training was on the job and it was what Mr Summerson describes as a ‘steep learning curve’.

He said: “It was early August when I made my first illegal fishing arrest, jumping from cover on the banks of the River Wear in the early hours of the morning.”

He progressed through the ranks to Senior Bailiff in 1992 and eventually Team Leader in 2004.

During those 21 years in the field, he investigated over 500 serious incidents of illegal salmon and sea trout poaching, some of it on a commercial scale, and made more than 140 arrests as well as meeting and checking the licenses of thousands of anglers.

He has seen the transition from Northumbrian Water Authority, to National Rivers Authority to the Environment Agency as it is today.

Mr Summerson has been a constant part of a Fisheries Enforcement Team which is a beacon of excellence, working with the police on intelligence-led operations, using new technology to stay ahead of the game and driving new enforcement techniques to protect fish and North-East fisheries.

He has been involved in many firsts, including the trial of taped interviews at South Shields Police Station, the first fish poaching conspiracy case in 1994, the first case using a thermal imaging camera in 1996 and the first conviction using body-worn cameras just last year.

“I don’t think I was ever the best, I just tried to be the best I could be to protect the environment that I and the rest of the team still have responsibility for – not just for me but for our future generations,” said Mr Summerson.

“During my time I have been the wettest I’ve ever been without swimming, had the privilege of seeing the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises the North-East has to offer and experienced all the highs and lows that come with being a water bailiff.

“I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all again as long as I had the same incredible team of people around me.”

He added: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to even be nominated let alone receive such an honour.

“It shows that even your average person can be recognised for doing a job they have loved passionately throughout their career.

“I really hope that it helps people to understand the importance of our rivers and all the fish that are in them.”

Salmon byelaws come into force!

20 Dec


The Environment Agency’s national salmon and sea trout byelaws, applicable in England, have been confirmed by Defra. This means that the byelaws will become law and come into force on 1 January 2019.

The Environment Agency is introducing these restrictions on fishing in England in response to the international decline in migratory salmon stocks. Salmon stock numbers are currently among the lowest on record and are below sustainable levels in many rivers.

The byelaws will become law on the 1st January 2019 and will see the following restrictions being implemented:

Closing all commercial net fisheries for ‘At Risk’ and ‘Probably At Risk’ rivers (some fishing for sea trout will still be allowed). This will include all drift net fisheries;

Mandatory catch and release by anglers on the rivers that are classed as ‘At Risk’ to be introduced in June 2019. These are the Cumbrian Calder, Dorset Stour and Yealm;

Mandatory catch and release by anglers on the rivers that are listed as ‘Recovering Rivers’. These are rivers where salmon were effectively wiped out and small populations have re-established in recent years with improvements in water quality on mostly heavily polluted post-industrial catchments. Examples of these are the Mersey, Yorkshire Ouse; Renewal of the 1998 Spring Salmon Byelaws. These protect the larger, early running salmon, and do not involve any new measures.

The new byelaws come into force following an Environment Agency consultation, which sought views on how to better manage salmon fishing in England and the Border Esk.

As part of new byelaws there will be voluntary catch and release expectation for salmon caught rivers classed as ‘Probably at Risk’ to ensure catch and release levels greater than 90%.

Reducing the taking of salmon by rods and nets is only one part of the Environment Agency’s larger programme to protect salmon stocks. Actions taken by the Environment Agency and its partners that contribute to protecting salmon stocks include removing barriers, improving water quality and agricultural practices, and addressing unsustainable water abstractions.

Kevin Austin, Environment Agency’s Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment said: ‘It is only through continuing to take concerted action, and through the cooperation of others, that we will successfully protect this iconic fish for future generations. We are not implementing these changes lightly and have consulted widely with those affected. There is no single solution to protecting salmon stocks; reducing the catch of salmon can only partly contribute to the recovery of salmon stocks’.

Good news if you like Seals?

19 Dec

Record breeding year for the number of seal pups born off Northumberland coast

Atlantic grey seal pup numbers at one of the largest colonies in England have reached record highs, the National Trust has said.

Counts by rangers on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, have revealed numbers of youngsters born at the colony has risen by almost 50% over five years.

Some 2,602 pups have been counted this breeding season on the islands, up from 1,740 in 2014, with the healthy numbers thought to be down to a good supply of food for the seals and a lack of predators.

Seal pup numbers also hit record highs at the National Trust’s Blakeney Point in Norfolk, with 2,802 youngsters counted this year, compared to 2,000 in 2014.

Grey seals are protected mammals, with global numbers thought to be around 300,000, half of which live in British and Irish waters.

National Trust rangers who live on the Farne Islands for nine months a year survey the seals during the breeding season, which runs from late September to December with the majority of pups born in October and November.

Once the breeding season starts, pups are sprayed with a harmless vegetable dye to indicated the week they were born, with a rotation of three or four colours helping rangers keep track of numbers.

And for the first time, following a trial last year, rangers have also used a drone flying overhead as they undertake the spraying, to check against numbers gained on the ground, to make the count more accurate and less stressful for the seals.

The drone has also allowed the Rangers to see onto the smaller islands which are hard to land on in rough seas, the Trust said.

Ranger Thomas Hendry said: “We wait until the first pups are born and then begin the process of counting and marking all the pups born on the islands.

“A lack of predators and a plentiful supply of sand eels, which make up about 70% of the seals’ diet, has helped bolster our seal pup numbers.

“This new record for the grey seal colony is certainly a milestone and could be good news for the health of our seas around the islands, indicating a good food supply due to fishing being limited partly due to several protected areas of sea around the islands.