In most UK rivers, fewer than five salmon in a hundred now return to spawn.

Bid to reverse English salmon decline

The Environment Agency (EA) has launched an ambitious 5-point plan that aims to halt the dramatic decline of salmon stocks in England. 

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Despite funding cuts from government, the Agency has committed additional funding to support this extensive programme of work over an 18-month period.

The approach aims to address five key issues affecting salmon stocks:

  • Improving marine survival, which has decreased by almost 50% in 20 years.
  • Reducing the impact of both commercial and recreational fisheries and, in particular, phasing out mixed stock netting.
  • Finding fish passage solutions to mitigate the impacts of man-made barriers to migration, improving river habitat and tackling predation from fish-eating birds.
  • Safeguarding sufficient flows.
  • Reducing agricultural pollution to improve water quality and maximise spawning success.

The most recent (2014) published assessments of salmon stocks in England and Wales by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) showed further declines from previous surveys to the lowest numbers on record.

With at least 900 full time jobs supported by recreational salmon angling and hundreds of millions of pounds worth of fishery rights dependent on fish stocks the Angling Trust argues that it is imperative that drastic action is taken now.

The EA acknowledges that restoring salmon stocks is not a feasible task for a single organisation; rather a co-ordinated approach is required involving action from wider government and partners.  Consequently, the Salmon Five Point Approach is a partnership initiative involving Defra and a range of partners including the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, The Rivers Trust, and Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, who will all play a role in delivering on specific objectives.

The Angling Trust, as the national representative and governing body for angling in England, will be providing recommendations to reduce the impact of recreational rod angling on salmon by voluntary measures on a river-by-river basis to avoid the threatened imposition of mandatory catch and release. The Trust will be developing and implementing a proposal to secure private sector support for enforcement by volunteers and to help fund the buy-out of nets. It will also be continuing the ongoing work with its Fisheries Management Advisors to promote more effective control of predation from cormorants and goosanders.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said: “We are pleased to see this comprehensive and detailed response from the Environment Agency to the Save Our Salmon campaign that the Angling Trust launched last year. The real test will be whether these fine words are converted into a really comprehensive change in the way that we manage the many pressures on salmon stocks. Anglers will play their part, but it is vital that other Defra agencies and branches of government take action if the 5-point approach is to be successful. The Angling Trust & Fish Legal will continue to campaign and if necessary take legal action to ensure that the protection of these magnificent fish is taken much more seriously at all levels of government.”