The Environment Agency has recently provided the following update on the introduction of proposed new byelaws for the protection of migratory fish stocks off the northeast coast.
We submitted our byelaws and accompanying evidence to Defra on 17 August 2018, and since that time have been working to provide Defra and the Fisheries Minister George Eustice with any further information and clarification they require to inform the final decision.
Minister Eustice has taken a keen interest in these matters and is well acquainted with the concerns and considerations relating to delivering better regulation for salmon stocks. Once the Minister has considered all the available evidence he will make a decision to confirm the byelaws, subject to any amendments, additions or deletions he feels are appropriate. We expect a decision from the Minister in the near future and will keep all parties informed of the latest position once we have any further news.
The key provisions of the national salmon byelaws are:
Net fishery byelaws
Our proposed byelaws, if confirmed, would see:
1. An end to all drift netting for salmon and sea trout on the North East coast and the closure of the drift net fishery from January 2019.
2. The closure of the T and J net fishery for salmon, allowing the continuation of the beach net fishery from 2019 on a sea trout only basis.
3. Shorter seasons for each district, depending on the number of salmon typically taken in the net fishery. These are:
District 1: 26 March – 31 May (Scottish border to Souter Point, excluding R. Tweed)
District 2: No licences (Souter Point to Boulby Crags)
District 3: 26 March – 30 June (Boulby Crags to Hayburn Wyke)
District 4: 26 March – 31 July (Hayburn Wyke to Yons Nab)
District 5: 26 March – 31 July (Yons Nab to Thornwick Nab)
District 6: 26 March – 31 August (Thornwick Nab to Mappleton Church Spire)
District 7: 26 March – 31 August (Mappleton Church Spire to Spurn Head)
NB After further consideration and analysis of patterns of salmon and sea trout catches, the proposed length of the netting season for sea trout has been extended by 1 month in Districts 3, 4 and 5 from the seasons proposed in our original byelaw submission.
This decision is based on an assessment of the best and most appropriate balance between providing protection for threatened salmon stocks, and allowing licensed netsmen to continue fishing for sea trout as part of their livelihood. As our proposed byelaws will require all salmon captured in J nets to be released, and the number of salmon captured in the J net fishery is relatively small, an extension to the netting season for sea trout has been deemed appropriate.
4. We are proposing to run a carefully monitored trial of a modified design of T net in District 1 which is 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 current season. We are also considering the potential to undertake a similar trial of a J net comprised entirely of nylon netting (ie with no monofilament in the J comprising the headpiece) in Districts 3-7 if any licensees have an interest in participating in such an opportunity.
The results of any trials which take place next year will be used to inform a decision on whether we licence new designs and specifications of T and J net to fish for sea trout only over the current netting season. Any new nets would have to have shown they selectively exploit sea trout and do not snag, gill or entangle a significant number of salmon. The introduction of any new net designs would require a new regional fisheries byelaw to be made.
Such a new byelaw would require the Agency to undertake the formal process of consultation on our proposals and presentation of our supporting evidence, followed by an advertisement. A new byelaw would only come into effect once confirmed by the minister.
5. Given our proposals to close the T net fishery for salmon and operate a much shorter netting season, we no longer intend to prohibit T netting in Tyne Conservation Area B at South Shields. Rather, we propose to maintain the two netting stations in this area, allowing net fishing for sea trout only over the shorter season. Similarly, we no longer propose to prohibit T netting in the Boulmer and Amble stell fisheries within Coquet Conservation Area B, but allow T netting to continue for sea trout only over the shorter netting season.
We do not propose to introduce mandatory catch and release for any Yorkshire or North East rivers in 2019. We propose preventing the take of salmon where the stocks are most vulnerable by introducing mandatory catch and release requirements for ‘At Risk’ rivers from 2019, but this does not apply to any North East salmon stocks.
Given the response to the initial consultation we recognise that further regulation could have an impact on angling, our approach for Probably at Risk or better stocks from 2019 will require those rivers to achieve high voluntary catch and release rates of over 90% in the first instance.
Where the 90% catch and release target is not met, we will take decisions on a river-by-river basis whether or not mandatory 100% catch and release should be applied by byelaw. If the current catch and release rate is higher than the proposed rate, then the current rate will be required to be maintained.
We have requested that the national byelaw (Byelaw 13) dealing with taking of salmon and sea trout on rod and line and the various lures and hook sizes is not confirmed. This is because responses to the advertisement of the byelaws made a strong case for retaining control of appropriate rod fishing methods at a local level by regional fisheries byelaws, to best reflect local circumstances and fishing practises in different parts of England.
Net Limitation Order review
In parallel with the national salmon byelaws, we are also reviewing the Yorkshire and North East Net Limitation Order 2012 (NLO). The NLO regulates the number of net licences that are issued in the Yorkshire and North East net fishery, and restricts the issue of licences to those netsmen who held the same type of licence in the previous year. As licensees retire or otherwise leave the fishery, their licences are not made available to new entrants to the fishery. In this way the net fishery decreases over time as existing licensees leave the fishery.
The review has largely been completed and will report after the byelaws are confirmed or otherwise by the minister. The 2012 NLO remains in force for a period of 10 years, and is in operation until December 2022.
The mid-term review presents an opportunity to determine whether the provisions of the current NLO, together with the wider regulation of the net fishery continue to provide an appropriate regulatory framework. Under the 2012 Net Limitation Order, there is no provision for the transfer of nets from existing licensees to any other person. We intend no change to this position.