THE TIMES (UK)
Salmon expert demands controls on catch‑and‑release angling
December 31 2018, 12:01am,
An expert on Atlantic salmon has called for curbs on catch-and-release angling to preserve populations in Scotland.
Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, a professor in aquatic biology, said wild salmon were already extinct or critically endangered in Spain, Portugal and France and that populations in other countries in northern Europe could suffer the same fate without urgent action.
He said: “The plight of salmon in Scotland is the same as the plight of salmon in Europe. Sea lice [from farmed fish], angling, climate change and agriculture all contribute to their decline of populations. There has never been an example of species going extinct for only one reason.
“Supplementing the salmon numbers from hatcheries will continue to fail. If we are having to catch salmon and put them back to sustain the numbers then there is something wrong. There is no guarantee that stopping the practice of catch and release would save the fish populations, but if we don’t then it’s not going to get any better. The arguments I make about salmon populations also apply to areas of Scotland where populations are below the minimum number necessary to ensure [their] long-term survival.”
Professor de Leaniz, director of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research at Swansea University, said that governments deluded themselves with catch quotas. He added: “Can you imagine a conservation programme for, say, the black rhino where hunters are allowed to catch five or ten [animals]? Or even to engage in catch and release? How can we contemplate a scheme where we catch fish simply for fun and put them back in the river in the hope they are going to survive? Of course they are damaged by it.”
A study on the River Blackwater, north of Inverness, aims to discover the mortality rate of salmon that have been caught and released and whether the surviving salmon are able to reproduce. Previous studies have indicated a mortality rate of 10 per cent.
Archie Ferguson, president of the Scottish Anglers National Association, told the Sunday Post: “Catch and release is a difficult one and the playing and releasing of any creature would be hard to justify to the layman, but angling goes way beyond just catching fish. We are the frontline observers of the river and water environments. We have a vested interest in ensuring fish stocks, pollution levels, abstraction, hydro schemes et al are kept at healthy levels.”