FISHERY: Impact is minimal

In response to Philip C Adams (News Guardian, February 21), as a salmon fisherman on the Northumberland coast with more than 51 years’ experience, I am fully aware of the ‘global issues’ concerning wild salmon.

Thursday, 28th February 2019, 05:30 am

The problems with salmon conservation have little to do with the few remaining commercial salmon fisheries. Their impact on stock is minimal. The real problems are environmental, ecological and climate change.

Long-term degradation of river habitats is limiting the reproductive capacity of rivers, combined with a cyclical decline in numbers returning to some rivers; the reasons are not fully understood.

We as fishermen cannot, and should not, be held responsible for these factors in the decline of some stock.

Use of the ‘precautionary approach’ in salmon fishery management allows for misleading conclusions to be drawn, and acted upon. It appears to mean, ‘we really don’t know what is happening, but this suits our purpose to implement a policy for which there may not be any justification’.

This approach is now largely discredited because it leads to perverse outcomes, like unnecessary fishery closures.

Productive commercial salmon fisheries should be viewed as part of good fisheries management, not seen as an administrative inconvenience or a political football.

Fishermen had offered to restrict activities towards a conservation plan. This would have maintained our fisheries’ infrastructure and allowed us to retain an important fishery until stocks improved. Our offer was ignored.

Now many fishermen are left with expensive equipment and boats that are obsolete. For some, salmon fishing was their main source of income.

Mr Adams states that ‘fishermen can just go and catch something else’. Fishing is a complex maze of rights, licences, quotas, track records and restrictions so other opportunities are not readily available. It also leads to increased pressure in other fisheries.

As an aid to conservation, perhaps sporting anglers should look to take up another sport, such as football or tennis, and all fisheries should be closed.

Salmon stocks in north east rivers do not appear to be on the verge of extinction. The Tyne has seen record runs of salmon in the past three years, and other rivers are stable or improving their conservation status.

This is the result of proactive river management, improvement of water quality, habitat restoration and large-scale ongoing restocking of salmon from our Kielder Hatchery.

Thirty years ago the Tyne was little more than an industrial sewer; it is now the best salmon river in England. Perhaps the adoption of similar measures in other areas would go a long way to improving the situation.

We are grateful to MP Alan Campbell for the many years of unstinting support he has given to us. We would, however, much prefer to have our fishing back, rather than compensation.

It may just be a coincidence, but every adverse or terminal decision taken regarding our salmon fishery has been made by a Conservative Minister.

Dennis Clark