Emergency measures introduced to protect UK salmon stocks

Published on
June 18, 2019

An emergency bylaw to protect salmon in the River Severn and its estuary has been introduced by the United Kingdom's Environment Agency after a review of recent data showed a significant reduction in the stock.

Under the new measure that took effect on 15 June, 2019, draft-net and putcher fishing in the Severn estuary is prohibited, while lave-net fishing is to operate on a catch-and-release basis only. The bylaw also makes catch and release for rod-and-line fishing compulsory on the whole of the Severn for the remainder of the current rod season, which lasts until 7 October.

The move to protect this salmon population comes after figures on the stock levels for the Severn, Wye, and Usk showed numbers were extremely low.

“This has not been an easy decision to take. We have looked at other options, such as reduced catch limits for both net and rod fishermen and voluntary catch and release for lave-net and rod fishermen, but felt that stopping any salmon being taken on the Severn this season through a byelaw was necessary to protect salmon in the river,” David Hudson, environment manager for Gloucestershire, said.

Hudson explained that fishing was only one of a number of factors that have led to the fall in salmon stocks in the Severn, and highlighted that environmental factors at critical times in the salmon’s life cycle also play a part. 

“We are particularly concerned this year about the effects of the very hot summer of 2018. We had hoped that the numbers would improve in the autumn but this hasn’t happened. We understand the impact this will have on fishermen, but only by the use of immediate and robust action, with cooperation from others, can we prevent the collapse of salmon stocks in the Severn in the future,” he said.

Reducing the taking of salmon is part of the Environment Agency’s larger national program to protect salmon stocks. Other actions include removing barriers, improving water quality, minimizing predation, implementing better agricultural practices and addressing unsustainable water abstractions.

It said that it would continue to monitor fish stocks throughout the season in order to reach a decision about its next steps before the start of the 2020 season.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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