Drift nets ban proposed to halt fall in wild salmon stocks
Environment Agency says fish levels on England-Scotland border near record low
Chris Tighe in Newcastle - Apr. 2, 2018
The Environment Agency has proposed an immediate end to the historic practice of drift netting and a prohibition on removing salmon from 10 rivers to counter a slump in the number of wild salmon in England.
The public body said action needed to be taken to prevent the collapse of salmon stocks and has opened a consultation on its proposals.
Salmon stocks across England and in the Esk river on the England-Scotland border are currently among the lowest on record, with many rivers failing to meet their minimum safe levels, according to Environment Agency calculations.
But the measures proposed by the body have outraged commercial salmon fishermen in the north-east, who say their fisheries are being consigned to the history books on the grounds of spurious science and political motivation.
“Proposed closures of our fisheries are to treat the symptom, not the problem itself,” said Ned Clark, a fisherman in North Shields who is a leader of the regional branch of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations.
“This gives the politically connected and well-funded NGO, angling and riparian lobby the opportunity to hammer home their 40-year crusade to end commercial fisheries.”
Fishermen in Filey, on the North Yorkshire coast, have also fiercely opposed the Environment Agency’s proposals and collected nearly 16,000 signatures for a protest petition.
Under the agency’s plans, from next year, all salmon caught in the “J” nets used by the Filey fishermen will need to be released.
It has also proposed a ban to be introduced later this year on drift netting, which uses very long, free-floating nets which drift like a curtain with the tide. The practice is focused on the Northumberland coast.
The agency also wants all salmon caught by rod and line on 10 named rivers to be returned.
Wild salmon spawn in rivers. Their offspring then swim to the sea where they live, often travelling as far as Iceland and Western Greenland, before returning to start the cycle again.
“One thing we can control is the level of catching by humans,” said Jon Shelley, the Environment Agency’s fisheries programme manager for north-east England. “Our foremost consideration is the conservation of salmon stocks but we do that with full consideration of the social and economic impact.”
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