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Threats to fish and fishing

If you have worked your way through some of the fishing pages on this site you will be aware of the variety and scope of the fishing opportunities in Kite Country. I hope you are able to visit the area soon and enjoy some time spent on one of the rivers or stillwaters I have described. Now for the bad news...

Just like any other country in the Western Hemisphere, Welsh game fishing has suffered more than its fair share of severe cutbacks in native, wild fish stocks. This trend will continue unless something is done fast. What are the problems?

  • Overfishing at sea and in estuaries
  • Global warming
  • Hydropower schemes
  • Seal and bird predation
  • Pollution and siltation
  • Poaching
  • Afforestation and acidification
  • Man-made obstacles
  • Poor habitat
  • Water abstraction
  • Inadequate fishery protection

There may well be more reasons and you will certainly have your own favourites. If you take a look at my page on the River Wye, you will see that there has been a massive reduction in salmon stocks on that once proud river. In truth, salmon runs in the British Isles never really recovered after the impact of the dreadful UDN disease in the 1960s. Since then this magnificent fish has been slowly sliding towards extinction under the pressures of overfishing and huge increases in the energy and water requirements of a growing population. The radical action and extra funding to counter this has not happened, despite the efforts of various groups dedicated to angling and wildlife conservation. Paradoxically, the very business of salmon farming is now regarded as one of the main reasons for the reduction of Irish and West Coast sea trout stocks. So what can be done and what is being done?

  • Reduction of high-seas fishing
  • Restrictions on coastal and estuarial net fishing
  • Effective policing of poaching and pollution incidents
  • Restrictions on angling with rod and line
  • Catch and Release
  • Habitat improvement
  • Removal of redundant weirs
  • Changes in farming practices
  • Extra funding for environmental protection
  • Raising the public awareness

Again, this is not a definitive list and there are many other initiatives which you may have in mind. For a much more detailed examination of the problems and the strategies to counter them, take a look at the comprehensive Environment Agency site, where you will find countless reports and other documents to inform you.

Conservation

It is true that some additional funds have been made available for this purpose by Central Government, although these do not appear to bear any relation to the annual income from fishing licences. In effect, much of the funding and effort to conserve and improve fisheries is supplied by anglers and voluntary bodies. Successive governments have failed to recognise the total income generated by angling in terms of tourism, the tackle industry and other related services. Against these sums, the income and other benefits derived from the netting industry pale into insignificance. Whilst the scientists and fishery protection officials of the Environment Agency do provide a service and a strategic perspective, it is voluntary and informed groups such as the Wye and Usk Foundation that can make a real difference. To these we can add the Salmon and Trout Association, the Angling Trust and the Wild Trout Trust, all of which can exert a degree of pressure through industry and government contacts. In a smaller way, local groups such as the Carmarthenshire Fishermen's Federation can provide an authoritative local perspective and seek to bring about changes for the good in their own smaller angling communities. The CFF, for example, has almost unparalleled knowledge of the River Towy fishery and its particular problems. The efforts of volunteers to bring about improvements to the habitats on the River Wye and its numerous tributaries, as well as similar work elsewhere, will have a positive effect on both trout and salmon stocks. They will also produce improvements to the environment for non-anglers and will attract more visitors and income to the area.

What can you do?

In actual fact, many anglers might believe that they have already done more than enough. In the last decade we have had to put up with a reduction in catches, huge increases in licence fees and restrictions on the length of seasons and fishing methods. We are also under increased attack by the anti-hunting/fishing lobby and are bearing the pressure of an increase in canoeing activity. This is no time for complacency and it is still very much our responsibility to do what we can to ensure that our children can continue to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and the spectacle of a wild salmon fighting its way up a healthy river:

  • Practice sensible catch and release, especially with large fish over 14lbs - download this useful guide
  • Use small, single, barbless hooks
  • Use knotless nets or, even better, keep the fish in the water whilst gently removing the hook using forceps
  • Bring a fish to boat or bank quickly
  • Send for the EA video on Catch and Release by calling 01454 624411
  • Report incidents of poaching
  • Report and evidence incidents of pollution to the Environment Agency on 0800 807060
  • Observe the close seasons
  • Join local and national conservation organisations
  • Express your concerns to your MP and the Government
  • Protect wildlife and the environment

A Plea for the Shad

Whilst fishing for trout or other species in rivers such as the Usk, Wye and Towy, you might encounter a rather more unusual fish known as the Twaite Shad (Lat. Alosa fallax). The Shad is related to the Herring and is a migratory fish, occasionally travelling far upstream in order to spawn from April/May onwards. The species is silvery in appearance with large scales. There is a greenish tint to the back and a golden sheen about the head. According to recent research by the Environment Agency the Twaite Shad now spawns in only four UK rivers, the Severn, Wye, Usk and Towy. The unfortunate Allis Shad spawns in only the River Tamar in South West England. There is now great concern as to the survival of this fish and any caught accidentally should be carefully returned. Please report any catches to the Environment Agency.

Poaching

Those of you who are from other countries or are new to fishing may be unsure of what action to take if you suspect that illegal activity is taking place. You may therefore find the following advice from the Angling Trust quite useful:

  • Do not approach the offender(s) yourself. If you can do so without being seen, take a picture or video of the activity.
  • If you can do so without being seen, make a note of the number-plate of any vehicles involved. Most modern mobile phones have a camera or memo pad where you could record this if you don't have a pen and paper.
  • Poaching is an offence under the 1968Theft Act. Always report ALL poaching incidents to the Police on 999 and keep a record of what you report.
  • If you suspect poaching you should also contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60 and write down their incident number. Other offences such as fishing without a rod licence, illegal fishing methods, breaches of local byelaws or damage to spawning grounds should also be reported to them.
  • If you have information about fish theft or illegal fish transfers, you can also contact Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555 111.
  • If the incident is on a private fishery, please also contact the owners or fishing club to inform them and phone the Police.

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Click pictures to enlarge. Those with a red caption may take a long time to download.
Afforestation at Talybont Reservoir
Afforestation at Talybont
Twaite Shad
Twaite Shad
Habitat improvement on River Monnow
Habitat improvement