FISHERY: Move to save our salmon

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An open letter to Alan Campbell, MP.

We were troubled to see reports of your speech criticising the “government’s move to close the drift net salmon fishery off the North East coast” (News Guardian, January 10).

This closure is one outcome of many years’ work by a multitude of organisations and individuals to improve the conservation of salmon, an iconic species with special status.

These important actions are part of the Five Point Approach to salmon conservation, agreed in 2015.

Any pressure from “the lobbying of landowners with valuable fishing rights” would be drowned out by the clamour for action from the Environment Agency, DEFRA, the Angling Trust, Rivers Trust, Canal and Rivers Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, Wild Trout Trust and Institute of Fisheries Management, to name just UK organisations calling for a reduction in the exploitation of wild salmon populations.

The North East net fishery is a mixed-stock fishery, i.e the salmon caught were destined for many rivers. Because of this, management decisions about the number of fish that can be taken are particularly difficult.

International norms are that such fisheries are undesirable and the UK has obligations to phase out mixed stock fisheries, given the current state of salmon stocks across the Atlantic. Greenland and the Faroes have made sacrifices through NASCO agreements and are looking for other countries to do the same.

Unfortunately, even if “fishermen understand stock conservation and the environment” because “their livelihoods depend on it”, they still kill a large percentage of the salmon destined for east coast rivers, far more than can be tolerated at current stock levels.

The failure of most commercial fisheries due to over-fishing suggests that your observation is not generally valid.

Anglers have dramatically reduced the number of salmon they kill over the last two decades. They are being encouraged to do more, and will be prevented from killing salmon completely if the situation does not improve quickly.

The risible state of salmon stocks internationally and in the UK has demanded action.

It is unfortunate that the north east drift net fishery has had to close, but this is a straightforward and obvious step to improve the survival of salmon.

Many North East fishermen are in a position to turn to other target species; the salmon have nowhere to turn.

Philip C Adams

Secretary, Salmon and Trout Conservation UK (Northumbria Branch)