Wild salmon stocks hit ‘lowest level’ on record after disastrous season on Scotland’s prime rivers

24 Apr


Fisheries Management Scotland said official figures to be released by the Scottish Government on Wednesday would confirm that Atlantic salmon are at a “crisis point”.

Rod and line catches are believed to have been lower than since records began in 1952, after a disastrous year on famous rivers, including the Tay, the Tweed and the Spey.

Alan Wells, chief executive of FMS, which represents the country’s district salmon fishery boards, said: “Figures for 2018, taken together with those of 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.”

He added: “Salmon conservation must become a national priority in what is the International Year of the Salmon.

“We are calling on all regulatory authorities urgently to place a renewed emphasis on the crucial importance of salmon conservation.

 “There are many examples where positive interventions have already helped, but more must be done.”

Mr Wells said ministers and agencies needed to co-ordinate efforts to protect salmon in a way that was currently not happening.

In 2017, the total rod catch was put at 49,444 fish, a drop of 20 per cent on the five-year average and the fourth lowest figure on record. Nine out of 10 fish were returned in a bid to help stocks.

According to the Atlantic Salmon Trust, wild salmon and sea trout numbers are being “decimated” on their annual migration from Scottish rivers to the waters of Greenland and the Norwegian Sea.

For every 100 salmon that leave rivers for the sea, less than five return, marking a decline of nearly 70 per cent in salmon numbers in just 25 years.

The trust has launched a project to track young salmon (smolts) going to sea for the first time in bid to learn what happens to them on the journey.

Causes for the drop in numbers are thought to include global warming affecting the feeding grounds in the North Atlantic and over fishing at sea. In Scotland’s west coast rivers, the drop in numbers has also been blamed large concentrations of parasitic sea lice in coastal salmon farms.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, said ministers needed to act now to protect salmon and sea trout from the impacts of salmon farming.

Durham Hydro, Baffles'(d)

22 Apr


In a previous post (17th February 2019) reference was made to the possible installation of baffles or curtain being installed in the Archimedes screw chamber to prevent migratory fish coming into contact with the turbine blade.
As can be seen in the above photograph the baffles or curtain has now been installed. The black curtain comprises two layers of vertical plastic slats or baffles, a longer front layer and a shorter, 300mm long rear layer. This rear layer is approximately 30mm in front of the blade.
In low water both slats hang vertically down.  In higher water the front flap will be swept forward by the water, leaving the shorter rear curtain in position, hanging vertically down.  In addition two underwater cameras have been installed to help monitor the behaviour of any fish entering the turbine chamber.
Everyone involved with this issue, and particularly Durham County Council the turbine operator, hopes that this system prevents any further fish being damaged by the turbine blade.
The situation will be monitored throughout this season by everyone concerned about the conservation of migratory fish stocks.
On the brighter side, in March, 69 migratory fish used the ‘Larnier’ fish pass alongside the turbine, so at least something is working well.

Invasive Treatment (Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam)

15 Apr

The Wear Rivers Trust has received £45,000 from Northumbrian Water for a non-native invasive species project for the period up to 2020.

This money will be used to purchase 10 spray kits along with the necessary fluid. The money will also fund a 2 day training workshop for volunteers in April/May 2019. Volunteers completing the workshop will be awarded an official certificate.

Each workshop will probably be limited to 5 or 6 people.

The first training day is scheduled for the 22nd of May 2019.

If you wish to register for this course please contact Paul Atkinson at the Wear Rivers Trust.

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.