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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Where the Cotswolds meet the Severn Vale

    Default Defend game angling in Wales!

    I've put this post up to inform people who fish the Welsh salmon rivers about the grave situation regarding the campaign by a few individuals in the NRW hierarchy to impose 100% catch and release on all anglers who fish for salmon anywhere in Wales.

    I suspect that very few people are aware that the NRW have been carrying out a 'consultation ' on the issue and had organised a questionnaire which was allegedly designed to capture anglers views on the subject.

    This 'consultation' has been carried out with such speed that it has been rightly described as a 'drive by'consultation.

    It closed on Sunday without 99.9% of salmon anglers in wales even being aware it was happening.

    We were tipped off about it last week by a conservation industry insider. At no point were we ever approached officially by anyone in NRW to try to ascertain our views. Which is a bit rich really considering that the Severn Salmon Anglers Conservation Association has led a campaign to improve voluntary C&R on the river, increasing it from 56% in 20010 to 79% in 2014.

    Below are the NRW questions and our responses.

    Do you agree that any controls for salmon should be across all rivers in Wales?

    Neither agree nor disagree


    The stock assessment model being used is deeply flawed and the terminology misleading.

    No salmon population in Wales is in any biologically meaningful sense ‘at risk’.
    Stocks are relatively stable when viewed over the long term using the only consistent data set we have which is declared rod catches.

    No decisions should be made on the basis of the methodology currently being used.

    It lacks consistency and credibility. It is an exercise in desk based model building made from a series of guesstimates and questionable assumptions about how salmon populations work in the real world.

    It has never been subject to serious review or evaluation.

    When the system was first introduced it was explicitly stated that it should not be used to determine management options on its own without reference to fish counter evidence, seasonal run variations, angling effort, juvenile surveys and economic and social impacts amongst other things. This guidance has not been followed by NRW in this case.

    It makes no compensation for reduced catches and low exploitation rates in low flow/poor fishing years such as 2013 and 2014. This is despite the fact that data collected by the NRW/EAW over the last two decades shows that correlation.

    If the estimated population in the model was corrected for reduced exploitation rates in low flow years (as it should be) then most rivers in Wales would have exceeded their conservation limit in 2013 and 2014.

    The widespread belief is that poor fishing conditions in 2013 and 2014 and consequent reduced catches are being cynically exploited to drive through a 100% catch and release agenda. This is highly inappropriate behavior from public servants and will be brought to the attention of elected politicians outside of this current process.

    Rivers should be managed on a catchment by catchment basis not across a whole country.

    2 if we agree that all salmon should be returned – do you support a byelaw that would ensure that everyone follow the requirement, or do you think that voluntary controls are enough?

    byelaw that all would be required to adhere to
    voluntary controls

    It is perfectly legitimate for anglers to take the occasional salmon for the table. It poses no quantifiable risk to salmon stocks in Wales.

    There has been no work done by NRW on assessing the economic and social impact of imposing 100% catch and release on unwilling anglers.

    When angling organisations have done this (as we have on the Severn) we have found that the impact will be massive.

    In late 2010 and early 2011 we surveyed 187 anglers which represented 55% of the salmon anglers who reported fishing the Severn in their rod licence catch returns.

    Less than 12% of anglers believe that the number of fish now taken by the rods represents a significant threat to stocks. The overwhelming view (88%) was that the existing very low level of rod exploitation was sustainable. Just 6.5 % of salmon anglers supported the introduction of compulsory catch and release, while only 5.5% support a temporary ban on taking fish.

    75% of anglers said that they would no longer fish the river if compulsory catch and release was introduced.

    We see no reason to think these results aren’t still representative. However we will be carrying out the exercise again this year. Not least because of the limited and rushed ‘drive by’ nature of the current consultation.

    The EA/NRW have collected data on effort pre and post june 16th (i.e. with and without 100% catch and release) for many years, but have never made this publicly available.

    What we do know however is that when the 100% spring byelaws were reviewed it was accepted that there had been a substantial reduction in angling effort of around 36% during the compulsory catch and release period prior to June 16th.

    ‘The current (2002-06) pre-June 16th national rod catch is about 36% lower than that
    between 1994-98 and may be explained by the drop in fishing effort of an equivalent

    A fall in angling effort of somewhere between 36% and 75% would have a devastating impact on:

    • NRW salmon rod licence revenue

    • Spending by visiting anglers in rural communities (B&Bs, garages, camp sites, shops restaurants, pubs etc)

    • Access to salmon angling for local people, as clubs would no longer be able to pay rents and fishing rights would be lost to rich outside private tenants.

    • Salmon conservation – as there would be less people on the river to report incidents of poaching or pollution.

    3.Would you consider supporting the extension of the spring salmon principles (i.e. Catch and Release plus no bait fishing for salmon) throughout the season?

    for a longer set period at the beginning of the season
    used at both the beginning and the end of the season
    the whole season
    not extended

    No see answer to 2 above.

    A ban on bait fishing would raise huge issues about access to salmon fishing opportunities for older and disabled anglers and should not even be considered without carrying out an equality risk assessment which has not been done in this instance.

    4. What other controls would you consider appropriate to reduce exploitation?
    (You may choose more than one answer)

    A later start to when salmon may be killed
    Earlier end to the season
    Bag limits
    Maximum size limits
    Licence catch conditions e.g. numbers of fish taken by nets

    None of the above.

    The most effective exploitation control would be to ensure that the limited financial resources available to NRW should be targeted at NRW field staff who can stop poaching and environmental crime. Staff currently engaged in desk based assessment exercises, box ticking and bogus consultations should be redeployed to more useful work.

    5. Bait fishing for salmon can result in disproportionately high mortality rates in rod released fish - generally accepted to be around 90-50% depending on where the fish is hooked. Would you support the introduction of further controls on bait fishing?


    See the comments above about equality risk assessment. A ban on bait fishing is a ban on less physically able anglers.

    6. Would you support the introduction of rules for barbless hooks to ease unhooking and improve post-release survival?


    Should be left to clubs and voluntary measures.

    12 What effective voluntary exploitation controls are you introducing to increase the number of salmon and sea trout surviving to spawn?


    The Severn Salmon Anglers Conservation Association have strongly supported voluntary catch and release and working in partnership with the Midlands Region of the EA have moved catch and release levels from 56% in 2010 to just under 79% in 2014.

    We have not received any support for this from NRW.

    Would you like to make any further comments or observations?


    As noted above the Severn Salmon Anglers Conservation Association have not received any support from NRW in relation to our salmon conservation work on the river Severn.

    Nor have we been invited to participate in this consultation despite driving forward a big increase in voluntary catch and release.

    We believe that 99.9% of salmon anglers in Wales have been excluded from this consultation. We will be doing everything we can to ensure that the real opinions of game anglers are communicated effectively to the elected politicians who have ultimate oversight on the activities of NRW.
    Last edited by severnfisher; 03-02-2016 at 10:31 PM.

  2. #2


    Well done Tom.

  3. #3

    Default NRW Wales survey

    I own a 1 mile stretch of a very small river in North Wales and received the survey both by mail and post on 4th Jan and replied a couple of days later. Not wanting to get in to a disagreement but I am amazed that you think that there is no decline in Salmon stocks. On the river I fish (I am also a member of the local Association) between myself and my 2 sons we used to get between 15-30 salmon and grilse a year, we have not had one in the last 4 years. Last year I only heard of 2 grilse being caught on the whole river (low water was against us but usually on such the fish will move into the lower pools on the big September tides). In the small arena that is the spate rivers of North Wales I am pretty sure that it is no exaggeration to say that the Salmon fishery is now non-existent.
    As far as catch and release goes, as far as I am aware, very few if any of the Members of the Association return anything (mindset) even last year when we had a far better than late Sea Trout run so compulsory is the way to go.
    I am the first to complain about NRW, I currently have 6 FOI requests in with them to see why on every one of the occasions when we gave vehicle registrations, names, dates and addresses of poachers with very large (20+) Sea Trout in the 5-8lb range not one of them was followed up! On our river there is a gang of 8 men who have become so brazen as to poach in broad daylight in the middle of the Village, come early June Facebook will be full of pictures again of kitchen sinks full of dead Sea Trout!

  4. #4


    dont want to get too deep into this debate about catch and release,but as fisherman the doors seem to closing in all around us,once these measures come into place,they shall never be reversed,me and my lad fished hard last season and we had 3 salmon between us and took one of them,would the 2 fish we released make an impact i dont think so,i do a lot of bass fishing and last year the 3 bag bass limit was introduced and this year it has been reduced again to one and catch and release before 1st july,but yet the gill netters are overlooked in the same way seals predatory birds poachers etc, are overlooked,things do need to improve but when you target the people who have the littlest impact it makes no sense,if 75 percent were to give up,that would be a huge dunk in lost license revenues.but they will go ahead and impose what ever they feel is the right decision,no matter what the ordinary every day fisherman thinks.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Yorkshire (were there a god it'd be god's own country)


    No need for any deep debate at all. There is no scientific evidence to suggest C&R on salmon is needed or works AT ALL, regardless of what anyone choses to do.

    The divisive and politically driven meddling in anglers rights to harvest responsibly has caused (since 1999) and continues to cause the loss of participants and participation in our sport.

    That is a very bad thing. Full stop.

    It all started with some numpty thinking "Spring Salmon Bylaws" are a good thing and required, and has spiralled downhill from then. There has been no published scientific support for this. "Ah, but think how bad it would have been without it" is not science

    In fact the science afterwards indicated it was probably ineffectual and only caused collapses in effort.

    Turning salmon fishing into a playground for the privileged few who are happy to chuck everything back and see less and less anglers ("competition") on the banks can not be good for our rivers in the long or short term. They're under a lot of pressure still. Without anglers to look after them, monitor and be concerned about them (who but for the anglers who used to fish for abundant salmon in the R. Fyne really knew or gave a fig when it's population crashed) they will continue to face bigger problems and the regulatory bodies will be let off the hook again.

    Were the SCS to start banging on about deteriorating water quality etc. the stock response will be: righto, you don't harvest anything again then, so it doesn't matter...

    It seem shocking and unfortunate that NRW has taken this non-participatory-but-supposedly-participatory approach.

    Presumably the AT (which has publicly stated it is against 100% C&R, but has not come out and said "actually the science indicates there is no quantifiable benefit to C&R at all") cannot help and are out of jurisdiction because of the reshuffle?


    Time for a mass mobilisation Kinder-trespass style? Mind you as Keirstream pointed out recently when ScotGov tabled unscientific classification and steamrollered more bonkers regs, people just seem so meekly accepting of gobbledygook nowadays. Whatever happened to backbones?
    "...hooking mortality is higher than you'd expect: further evidence that as a numbers game, catch-and-release fishing isn't always as straightforward as it seems"
    John Gierach

    Fed up of debating C&R - see Hidden Content

    Unless otherwise stated, data used in any graph/figure/table are Crown copyright, used with the permission of MSS and/or EA and/or ICES. MSS / EA / ICES are not responsible for interpretation of these data by third parties

  6. #6


    I am not a fan per se of catch and release and I have studied the arguments for and against very closely. However on this occasion with the stocks in the North Wales spate rivers at a level where repopulation is not viable then I cannot see how it can do any harm. If nothing else how can anglers complain about nets, poachers, FEB, farming pollution and apathy amongst politicians when as a group we are prepared to stand by and do nothing.
    I for one would love to see my Grandchildren (when they arrive) be able to catch a salmon as I did as a child, if they cannot I do not want to think in 25 years time, maybe I should have tried to do even a small amount!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Yorkshire (were there a god it'd be god's own country)


    Not keen to have the thread detracted from it's purpose. However the river you have told the forum you fish is an excellent case in point of the dangers you appear to be promoting on here. I can see why some would like it.

    Here is the rod catch of salmon for the last 2 decades:


    You can see, give or take natural variation, the rod catch is relatively stable, though the very dry years of 2013 and 2014 were poor catches as we would expect.

    However, the devil is always in the detail. Here is the number of rod days fished over the same time:


    In reality there has been a collapse in rod effort. This may be related to the post-1999 regulations, or perhaps more likely, natural attrition. Reason that is suggested, is because even when salmon were superabundant all over GB, in 2010, the effort was still very low.

    And using the two gives us the catch-per-unit-effort (no allowance for any effort specifically for sea trout). Errr.. which is increasing. Suggesting salmon are easier to catch because they're more abundant (but anglers are declining)


    If anyone cannot see how inviting this onto anglers will "not do any harm", then I cannot help, sorry

    For everyone else, please let's all buck up a bit.
    Last edited by seeking; 04-02-2016 at 02:25 PM.
    "...hooking mortality is higher than you'd expect: further evidence that as a numbers game, catch-and-release fishing isn't always as straightforward as it seems"
    John Gierach

    Fed up of debating C&R - see Hidden Content

    Unless otherwise stated, data used in any graph/figure/table are Crown copyright, used with the permission of MSS and/or EA and/or ICES. MSS / EA / ICES are not responsible for interpretation of these data by third parties

  8. #8



    I learnt about this questionnaire from Highplains a few days before the deadline and managed to get a reply back which was very consistent with your reply as quoted in the first post on this thread.

    For example for question 2 I chose Voluntary Control with the comment;-
    I don’t agree all salmon should be returned. For several years I have returned all salmon, aided by using single barbless hooks. However I would take obviously seriously damaged or diseased salmon. I also believe that the case for compulsory C&R has not been made. As in their preamble to the questions “There is no evidence that angling or net fishing has been the cause of stock decline” and as anglers are only presumed to catch only 10% of returning salmon compulsory C&R would have only a small affect on egg deposition. Despite the EA’s regular assertion, now taken over by the NRW, there is no PROVEN direct link between egg deposition and smolt production. (See pages 31 and 33 of EA Report W65 1997. Despite the Ricker model line drawn in Fig 6.2 the data presented shows the number of smolts exiting the river Bush is pretty much independent of the number of eggs deposited.) It is too simplistic to propose that C&R will increase salmon on the redds by 10% and thus egg deposition by 10% and thus a 10% increase in smolts leaving the rivers. IF the Ricker model were actually correct increasing egg deposition COULD reduce smolt production!

    For question 4. What other controls would you consider appropriate to reduce exploitation?

    I commented;-
    Bag limits and restrictions on net catches would indicate an aim to increase egg deposition. This would be a largely symbolic gesture as there is no convincing EVIDENCE that it is a lack of eggs that is limiting smolt numbers leaving Welsh rivers.

    For question 8. 40% of our sea trout stocks are also classed as either At Risk or Probably at Risk. Recognising that that the status of sea trout stocks across Wales is far more varied compared to salmon. Do you agree that any controls for sea trout should be across all rivers in Wales?

    I registered Strongly Disagree and my comment was;-

    As 60% rivers are not classed as ‘At Risk’ there is absolutely no justification applying controls to the majority of rivers. I would suggest that compulsory C&R is judged by most Welsh anglers to be the no cost NRW approach to transferring action to anglers and avoiding NRW having to take actions to benefit sea trout stocks.

    Finally under the heading -

    Would you like to make any further comments or observations?

    I added

    I have grave reservations over current attempts to assess fish stocks. W65 is the cornerstone of attempts to assess salmon stocks, (how sea trout stocks are assessed is a mystery.) The data presented in W66 for egg deposition versus smolt production indicates that there is no correlation between the two and in my opinion, (supported by several competent mathematicians/statisticians,) most definitely does not support the premise that there is a Ricker type relationship between the eggs deposition and smolt production. I believe that there should be a concerted drive to improve habitat in the spawning and nursery sections of rivers, to reduce avian predation and illegal fishing.

    In essence I believe the NRW see angling as unworthy of support and compulsory C&R as the route to ensuring game angling withers away.

    Brian M.

  9. #9


    Ahh wonderful graph, but, I know for a fact that in 1997 mine and my sons catches from the Dwyfawr exceeded the stated on the graph. If I choose 2 other seasons I can see that there must have only been 2/3 other anglers who caught as our numbers were 2/3 less than the stated catch for the whole river. 3 years ago I was asked to include my catches from the Dwyfach on the main river returns (which I did not) in order to help prevent the river dropping down the classification scale. On a small spate river word very quickly goes round when a run of fish enters and if there are no fish there no-one will go (simple effort and return calculation). I spend a lot of time up at the top of the river in spawning time (I used to go with the old bailiffs to strip fish for the hatchery) just watching because it fascinates me. In the last 4 seasons I have been unable to find any Salmon redds in their normal places, does not mean that are not there but I can't find them. Several years ago the bailiffs were so desperate for fish that we ended going to the River Soch to find some. These are observations from someone who fishes a river every weekend from mid May to mid October over a period of nearl 40 years. Statistics I am mis-trustful of as they can be interpreted in different ways, both our views on the fishing effort are case in point both viewpoints are valid and the graphs back them up.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    the river


    Local knowledge is worth a lot.

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