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.

River Wear – Crisis?

16 Jan
The Wear Anglers Association have recently emailed the Environment Agency with regard to the apparent collapse of migratory fish stocks entering the River Wear in 2019. The following is a reply on behalf of the agency by Jon Shelley, Fishery Programme Manager:-
” Thank you for your mail which I have passed on to the Fisheries Technical team, who are better placed to provide an update on Wear fish stocks than I am. Someone from the team will be in touch soon.
Regarding the net fishery, we will very shortly publish a full report and all data from the net trials we undertook in 2019, together with an accompanying report setting out options for future management of the fishery. We will then consult with interested parties to seek views on the best and most appropriate management of the beach net fishery.
I will, of course, invite you to participate in this consultation. 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.
In advance of this consultation, I have provided a summary below – which you are free to share with anyone who may have an interest:
The new netting season date are as follows:
District 1:          26 March – 31 May
District 2:          No licences
District 3:          26 March – 30 June
District 4:          26 March – 31 July
District 5:          26 March – 31 July
District 6:          26 March – 31 August
District 7:          26 March – 31 August
The 2019 net trial provided a substantial amount of new data to better inform our understanding of the operation of modified designs of T and J nets. The North East trial comprised 771 hours of netting in 87 separate netting events over an 11 week period. The data provided by logbook returns from licensed netsmen were validated by over 92 hours of independent fisheries observations and video surveillance of the operation of the nets by Environment Agency officers.
In the North East, a total of 3342 sea trout and 46 salmon were landed during the trial. Based on comparison with recent historic catches at the trial berth locations, this represents a 97% reduction in salmon catch, whereas sea trout catches were only reduced by around 30%. All 46 salmon entangled were released from the net and returned to sea with the minimum of delay. There were no immediate mortalities of salmon recorded, all fish were returned to the sea alive, generally with minimal to moderate scale loss.
The trial in Yorkshire comprised a total of 14 netting events, over which 81 hours of netting were undertaken. The data provided by logbook returns from the trial berth were validated by over 36 hours of independent fisheries observations and video surveillance of the operation of the nets by Environment Agency officers.
In Yorkshire, a total of 67 sea trout and 4 salmon were landed during the trial. Based on comparison with recent historic catches, salmon catches were around 74% lower than the recent average for this berth, with sea trout catches around 64% lower than average. Four salmon were entangled during the Yorkshire  net trial, three of which were returned with no recorded significant injuries. The fourth salmon entangled was intercepted by a seal and killed before it could be released.
Our first priority is the conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks, but we are mindful of the impact of regulations on commercial netsmen.  We will seek to achieve the best balance between providing vulnerable stocks with necessary protection and minimising the economic impacts on netsmen by allowing a sea trout net fishery as far as this is sustainable. 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.
Any extension to the sea trout netting season would be dependent on an assessment that contributing sea trout stocks have a surplus available for exploitation, as well as there being a minimal impact on salmon populations.  Any proposals to extend the netting season using modified designs of nets would require amendments to national and regional fisheries byelaws. This would require the publication of relevant evidence, formal advertisement and response to any objections raised, and confirmation of any byelaw changes we might make by the Secretary of State”
Editors Note:-
This is quite clearly a comprehensive reply that leaves all doors open with no particular committed outcome. Whilst the EA’s local office will make recommendations to government on the basis of net catch results and an assessment of the sustainability of migratory fish stocks. Decisions on angling restrictions and the continuation of coastal netting will lie solely with the Secretary of State.
Only 5,000 migratory fish were counted in the River Wear system in 2019  and 8,500 in 2018, this is approximately 11,000 fish below the yearly long term average.
Strong and decisive action is needed now, before it is too late!!!

Salmon; Alarm bells are ringing!

9 Jan

The following is a press release from Fisheries Management Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates which maybe of interest.

  • Leading figures in salmon conservation will meet key politicians at the Scottish Parliament (Tuesday, January 7) to address a looming crisis in wild stocks.

Environmental change, and a range of human impacts across the Northern Hemisphere are placing salmon at risk across their natural range. Today’s event will explore what can be done to reverse this trend and ensure a healthy future for Scotland’s iconic salmon. It will take the form of a round table discussion and evening reception, sponsored by Michelle Ballantyne MSP. A range of other national stakeholders will also take part in the event, seeking agreement on the collective efforts required to save the species.

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland said, “Salmon catches in Scotland have reached the lowest levels ever recorded, and nature is sending us some urgent signals about what could happen next. Official catch figures for 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.

Put simply, salmon conservation must become a national priority. Our leaders will be judged by their actions in meeting that challenge.”

Karen Ramoo, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates said, “Scotland has world renowned fishing which significantly contributes environmentally, socially and economically. The environment and the rural economy are at risk if we do not act now to tackle declining salmon numbers. We must aspire to maintain and improve our rivers and lochs to provide good breeding stock whilst a sustainable harvest can be made. Mechanisms to conserve these vulnerable stocks and encourage sustainable economic growth must be encouraged and it is imperative that the right balance is struck between conservation and the interests of those whose livelihood relies on fishing for salmon.

It is important that we recognise current positive management already taking place and seek to build on this while allowing reasonable steps to be taken where stocks are considered unsustainable.”

Michelle Ballantyne MSP said, “As species champion for the Atlantic salmon, I am honoured to be able to sponsor this event in Parliament in the hope of contributing to the conversation on solutions to the threats facing Scotland’s most iconic fish.

With wild salmon stocks approaching crisis point it is now more crucial than ever that we, as politicians, listen to the experts and have a constructive conversation about what can be done to protect and replenish stocks.

Much work is still needed, but by raising awareness of the scale of the challenge, and by bringing together organisations and stakeholders from across the country for this roundtable meeting, we are turning our attention to what can be done legislatively to support wild salmon.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “It is fitting that today’s round table about the future of our iconic wild salmon is taking place at the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. I am pleased also to announce £750,000 of funding for an innovative project between the Scottish Government, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland to work in partnership to track smolt migration on the west coast of Scotland and thereby seek to improve our understanding of this important fish.

The decline in the numbers of wild salmon returning to Scottish rivers is of great concern, and caused by a range of complex factors. That is why the Scottish Government has committed, in its latest Programme for Government, to develop a Wild Salmon Strategy by September 2020.

We will continue to work with key stakeholders such as Fisheries Management Scotland, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fishery Trusts to do everything possible to safeguard the future of Scotland’s wild salmon.”


Joint Press Release from Fisheries Management Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates.