Last update: 21st April 2018

The Minister replies to Chris's letter

Click on The minister replies to Chris’s letter below.

Chris White continues the challenge!

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

10 April 2018

 

Re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals – request for an Inquiry

Dear Minister,

We note in your recent correspondence that you say you will be following the requirements of the Water Resources Act 1991.  We draw your attention to Schedules 2 and 26 of this Act and formally request an inquiry as the objections from the majority of the respondents to the consultation have not been withdrawn.

To date our correspondence with your office has been put on hold with no indicative time scale for you to make your decision.  In Schedule 2 of the Act it clearly states that you can only confirm or reject the proposals once all of the objections have been dealt with.  To this end all that has been received from your agency (NRW) is a request that objectors withdraw their objections based upon their technical case which is flawed.  NRW have simply dismissed our objections claiming that we have not presented any evidence; In March CPWF together with the North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Committee (NWATFCC) jointly commissioned an Independent Evaluation of the rivers Classification methodology which has been used to justify the proposals (see attached report).

The findings and conclusions of this Evaluation by Consultant Statisticians are of such concern that we have requested that the Angling Trust write to NRW, EA, Cefas and NASCO requesting that the proposed 2018 measures are suspended based upon the contents of the evaluation.  In our correspondence with your office we have provided draft proposals on alternate and interim measures which will achieve better results than the proposed bylaws.  It was clear from the outset that there has been pre-determination by NRW in the outcome of the consultation; a similar situation exists in England.

Nothing in the NRW proposals will reverse the decline in salmon stocks in the short or medium or even long term as the proposals do not address the root cause of the decline, they simply disadvantage the stakeholders.   The evidence from 20 years of compulsory catch and release for spring salmon demonstrates the futility of the recommendations in achieving the desired outcome.

We would refer you to the comments made by Cefas on this issue who advised you that the proposals will have little impact but may be worth doing as there may be some improvement in the long term i.e. it is accepted by NRW that these proposals will do little or nothing to reverse the decline.

We would draw your attention that in August 2017 a public notice was placed in the London Gazette by the Welsh Government under its seal based upon the original bylaw proposals which have been subsequently amended.  We have taken legal advice concerning the publishing and formal notification in the London Gazette asking for objections whilst at the same time running a consultation i.e. were we objecting to bylaws which you had already approved or were we consulting on other options.  I would refer you to Schedule 26 and the requirement for formal notification following a consultation for a period of 28 days for objections to be lodged, this has not been complied with, there has been no opportunity to object to the amended proposals and you are not therefore in a position to approve the proposals.

The present fisheries bylaws are river specific and are to be replaced with a bylaw which covers all rivers i.e. a national Welsh fisheries regulation and not a bylaw.  I would again refer you to Schedule 26 and the need to revoke the existing bylaws before the new bylaws are enacted, I am not aware of any notice of revocation.

It is our preference to hold meaningful discussions on how salmon stocks can be conserved after all as stakeholders we know our own rivers best and are their guardians, it is not in our best interest to destroy our fish stocks as implied in the proposed NRW bylaws.

The draft interim proposals and pausing of the proposed Consultation Bylaw measures gives all parties the opportunity to engage and frame a constructive partnership approach that will conserve and benefit fish stocks, fisheries and communities for the long term.

 

Regards

Chris White

Conservation Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

Appeal from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales Brecon & Radnor Committee

Dear Mr Eardley and Mr White

 

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES – Intensive poultry units and river pollution

 I am writing to you about a petition which the Brecon and Radnor branch of The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) have submitted to the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee and to ask you whether you would be able to help us to achieve our goal of 5000 signatures. We have taken this action after a number of meetings with Powys County Council and Natural Resources Wales to discuss the environmental impacts of intensive poultry units, chief among these being impacts on water quality from run-off, manure storage, transport and spreading. NRW are taking steps to limit airborne pollution but are hampered by severe budget cuts. Many of the intensive poultry units applied for fall below the threshold for NRW permitting and regulation.  We have been very disappointed that Powys Council planners still show no signs of wanting to recognise any of the potential impacts of this type of development, despite expressions of concern from many local environmental bodies, and continue to pass planning applications without adequate scrutiny. We understand that similar problems are being experienced around the country.  If we can achieve 5000 signatures, the petition will be recommended for debate by the Senedd. Our hope is that a Senedd debate of the issues (including the severe cuts to Natural Resources Wales’ budget) would be a step towards improvements in planning practice and regulation.  This is a link to the petition site: https://www.assembly.wales/en/gethome/e-petitions/Pages/petitiondetail.aspx?PetitionID=1305 .  There is also an abbreviated link http://brecon-and-radnor-cprw.wales/ipu-petition . The petition is wordy, but we had to set out the issues at some length for the consideration of the Petitions Committee. We are also collecting paper petitions and I attach the paper petition form. Anyone can sign. It’s not a requirement to be resident in Wales, and anyone downstream of Welsh water pollution has a very strong interest.

We have gathered a great deal of information about the rapid expansion of the intensive poultry industry in Powys and this can be found on our website:http://www.brecon-and-radnor-cprw.wales/ I also attach a short flyer we have prepared summarising our principal concerns.  I really hope you can help us by sharing this petition with members and supporters. The petition end date is 22nd May so there is not a great deal of time left.

Please do get in touch if there is anything I haven’t explained, or any more information you need.  

Best wishes

 

 

Margaret Tregear

CPRW Brecon & Radnor Committee

01497 821668

http://www.brecon-and-radnor-cprw.wales/

 

THE VOICE OF REASON: Chris White.

President

Allan Cuthbert

7 Norton Avenue

Prestatyn

Denbighshire

LL19 7NL

 

Email: 1highplains@gmail.com

Strategy Officer

John Eardley

c/o Vanner Farm & Caravan Site

Llanelltyd

Dolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

Email: johneardley@btinternet.com

 

Conservation Officer

Chris White

57 Normanby Drive

Connahs Quay

Flintshire

CH5 4JX

 

Email:chriswhite.cohite@gmail.com

 

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

Re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your response LG/00305/18 (21/02/2018) on my suggestion of a way forward which does not require legislation.

I am aware that your Inland Fisheries are now in possession of the NRW proposals and I have no doubt that the recommendation to you will be that to prevent further decline in salmon stocks you must legislate to provide greater protection to the present salmon stock.  However, the proposals do little or nothing to increase salmon stocks, this is just a sticking plaster to avoid dealing with the main issues, and even the NRW agree that anglers are not the problem but they neither have the staff or the funds to deal with the root causes.

It is possible to restore salmon stocks in our rivers and I will use the Conwy as an example of what can be achieved by local conservation organisations.  For over 10 years I was secretary of the Conwy Valley Fisheries & Conservation Association and was responsible for managing a stocking program for the Conwy system.  This was self funded, we could not stock on a large scale but could afford to purchase 8000 parr from the EA(W) hatchery, and these were from local broodstock donated by anglers to the stocking programme.  The broodstock were taken to the EA(W) hatchery where eggs were stripped and, once the fish recovered, they were returned to the river.  The hatchery incubated the eggs and grew on the fry until the resulting parr were big enough to be stocked into our three semi-natural rearing ponds.  The parr were protected from predators until they were ready to migrate to the sea as smolts and were not fed more than twice a week and so had to forage for their food and were consequently as fit and healthy as any wild smolts.  The Conwy is now seeing the benefit of this stocking program with electro fishing results showing the highest number of fry and parr ever recorded and yet NRW claims that the Conwy is ‘probably at risk’, however this is based on the poor recruitment in 2015 following the effects of Storm Frank which had a devastating effect on all UK rivers.  During 2016 and 2017 we have seen more salmon and increased spawning activity, so the Conwy is not actually at risk.  Similar successful schemes were carried out on other Welsh rivers such as the Dyfi. The NRW proposed bylaws are disproportionate as they are to be applied to all rivers regardless of present conditions.

The salmon season is now underway and the lack of a decision on the implementation of the NRW proposals has resulted in many anglers not renewing their club membership, the knock on effect is that clubs may not have sufficient funds to pay their rents.  A statement deferring any implementation to 2019 (as per England) would be appreciated.  This would then provide a breathing space during which alternatives to legislation can be explored in more detail.

Regards

Chris White

Conservation Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

Another petition against the proposed rule changes

Another petition has been launched on the Welsh Government website. We do not advise doing this again because the support shown by anglers is so limited that it gives the government the impression that we are not supportive of the petitions aims. Please sign on this link because we have to get the numbers. Anglers are getting petition averse, so please NO MORE.   Click here    This petition is a pain to sign, so when you think you’ve signed, please page down and check. If and when you are successful the site will tell you.

 

The minister replies

Click on The minister replies to read it

A further letter to the minister

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

PresidentAllan Cuthbert

7 Norton Avenue

Prestatyn

Denbighshire

LL19 7NL

 

Email: 1highplains@gmail.com

Strategy OfficerJohn Eardley

c/o Vanner Farm & Caravan Site

Llanelltyd

Dolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

Email: johneardley@btinternet.com

 

Conservation OfficerChris White

57 Normanby Drive

Connahs Quay

Flintshire

CH5 4JX

 

Email:chriswhite.cohite@gmail.com

Re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your recent response on the above issue I fully appreciate that until NRW presents their proposals you are not in a position to make any comment.  Our concern is that you will be persuaded to approve the proposals without providing the major stakeholders a chance to voice our concerns and offer a solution which does not require legislation.

It was clear from the consultation that 83% of responders opposed the proposed bylaws, the majority from North Wales as they have most to lose.

Since the NRW Board meeting on 18 January stakeholders have met from across North Wales to look for alternatives to the proposed bylaws which will provide the same or better outcome than through legislation.  If legislation is implemented it cannot be policed, local clubs on the other hand can police their own members.

As well as support from many clubs in North Wales, we have the support of several clubs from mid and South Wales, and will be in discussion with other Trusts and clubs across Wales shortly.  Having talked to, and having the support of, both the North Wales Rivers Trusts and Afonydd Cymru, we would offer the following solution.

These are our outline proposals:

  • Use the Rivers Trusts, working in co-operation with stakeholders and NRW to assess stock levels in individual river systems.  Trusts, using their local volunteers, have far better knowledge of their rivers and can obtain accurate catch returns and stock assessments from clubs.  We could then categorise our rivers as has been done in Scotland and Ireland. If rivers require additional restrictions due to low stock levels at least we would have the support of the affected clubs as we will be working in partnership with them.
  • By working with clubs we can involve the local community in assessing the state of their rivers and work with them to ensure workable conservation measures are put in place.
  • Afonydd Cymru would act as the co-ordinator for the Rivers Trusts and would liaise with NRW on technical matters.  This would be cost neutral and would go a long way to bridge the budget gap NRW fisheries are now facing.

There is still a lot of detail to be ironed out but we believe that we have basis of a workable solution without resorting to legislation.  We would be pleased to meet with you or your Environment Minister (Hanna Blythyn) to explain both our concerns and the way forward.

Regards

Chris White

Conservation Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

CPWF has the support of freshwater and sea anglers in Wales.

Visit our website at www.cpwf.co.uk

 

Re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

 

PresidentAllan Cuthbert7 Norton AvenuePrestatynDenbighshire

LL19 7NL

 

Email: 1highplains@gmail.com

Strategy OfficerJohn Eardleyc/o Vanner Farm & Caravan SiteLlanelltydDolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

Email: johneardley@btinternet.com

 

Conservation OfficerChris White57 Normanby DriveConnahs QuayFlintshire

CH5 4JX

 

Email:chriswhite.cohite@gmail.com

An Open Letter to Kevin Ingram (Interim Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales) and Lesley Griffiths AM (Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs)

 

14th February 2018

 

Dear Sir & Madam,

 

At the NRW Board Meeting on 18th January a decision was made to apply to Welsh Government for confirmation of new fishing byelaws re fishing controls for salmon and sea trout in Wales.

Although a number of board members had major concerns that failure to work with stakeholders would result in the proposals failing to deliver their intended outcome, ultimately 2 other factors narrowly won the day:

  1. The need to be seen to support the Executive Team who have been advised by NRW Fisheries
  2. The feeling that to step back from taking a decision would be perceived as negligent, particularly in light of the bleak picture painted of salmon and sea trout stocks in the Technical Case document used to support the proposals

At the end of the meeting, in an atmosphere reminiscent of a wake, there were no fist pumping scenes of jubilation since now there were only losers; the NRW Fisheries Team who have so alienated stakeholders that their ill-conceived proposals are now unworkable, angling organisations who as well as feeling both disempowered and disenfranchised face a loss of membership, loss of income & loss of waters and, perhaps most significantly, the rivers and watercourses of Wales who have been deprived of a collaborative approach which could have delivered so much more.

 

Had we been able to present the following information to the Board we believe that the decision might have been somewhat different:

 

  1. The NASCO Implementation Plan for England and Wales states that “Compliance against the management objective (that a river must meet its Conservation Limit four years out of five) is assessed annually for each principal salmon river together with a forecast of that assessment in 5 years time.” Whilst there are rivers which are failing to meet their Conservation Limits, that is not a universal issue. In fact the Conwy, Glaslyn, Mawddach, Ogwen & Usk have all met their conservation limits and Management Objective according to the NASCO criteria.
  2. The 5 Year Forecast Projections for the last 3 verifiable periods (2009 › 2014, 2010 › 2015 and 2011 › 2016) are only 41%, 27% and 18% accurate!
  3. Table 7 on Page 49 of the NRW Technical Case Structure shows that the Management Target rather than the Conservation Limit has been used to assess stock status. The Management Target is not an applied measure in the formal Compliance procedures for Assessing Stocks. Correct applicationof the Conservation Limit would result in a very different picture for a number of Welsh rivers.
  4. Between 2010 and 2014 an average of 37.2% of anglers failed to submit a catch return. By 2017 the figure had reached 45%. It is impossible to adjust the stock status model to accurately reflect that amount of missing data.
  5. The numbers of rod caught salmon officially reported by NRW from the Rivers Wye & Dyfi over a 5 year period are significantly lower (Wye – 28.13%, Dyfi – 28.3%) than reliable figures collected by angling associations and river keepers. The addition of those numbers would have a huge impact on whether those rivers have met their Conservation Limit and Management Objective.

 

This information is at best misleading and in some areas may be open to legal challenge. In the meantime the 2 sides, despite sharing a common goal, remain as far apart as ever.

 

There is a feeling amongst the angling community that having invested so much time and so many resources in pursuit of its “preferred option” the NRW Fisheries Team has backed itself into a corner and has had no option but to continue along the same path. However, even if one has invested a great deal of time, effort and money in purchasing a battlefield tank to deal with the problem mouse behind the skirting board, that would not in itself be a justifiable reason for firing it when others have made you very much aware of the likely outcome of your actions.

 

In the meantime we have put forward an alternative solution to the Cabinet Secretary which has not only the support of angling clubs from all areas of Wales but also the North Wales Rivers Trusts and Afonydd Cymru. We believe that the proposed voluntary approach would deliver similar, if not better, results than the proposed statutory legislation and would also facilitate the delivery of River Restoration plans.

 

The current situation was brought into sharp focus by 2 events towards the end of last week. The first was reading a copy of Dr Malcolm Greenhalgh’s excellent open letter to Sir James Bevan (CEO Environment Agency), Michael Gove and Lesley Griffiths, which highlights the threat posed by changes in dairy farming practices to our aquatic ecosystems. The second was a lengthy telephone conversation that I had with Ceri Davies (NRW Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting). In a conversation that was at all times courteous and professional (there is too much mutual respect for it to be otherwise), two telling points emerged. The first is that it is in the best interests of both sides to work in a meaningful partnership. The second was the question as to whether angling organisations would be prepared to support NRW in order to increase pressure for change in those farming practices which are causing damage to the aquatic environment in Wales. Of course that type of co-operative approach is exactly what is needed but unfortunately a very large and obvious stumbling block has been placed in its path. In fact the situation would be laughable were it not so serious. Anglers want Welsh Government to side with them against NRW. NRW wants Welsh Government to side with them by imposing restrictions on anglers and NRW also wants anglers to side with them in order to put pressure on Welsh Government!

 

The road ahead is fraught with difficulties but one thing that is very clear is that it cannot be tackled by any one party in isolation. There is a choice to be made between either a collaborative approach which has the support of stakeholders and which would produce the desired results, or a heavy handed, dictatorial option which alienates the very people who NRW so much needs on its side. That decision does not rest with us but must either be made quickly or deferred, as in the meantime a number of angling clubs are already seeing a significant reduction in applications for membership as visiting and local anglers alike wait to find out just what the future holds for them in Wales.

 

Yours sincerely

 

John Eardley

 

Strategy Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

CPWF has the support of freshwater and sea anglers in Wales.

Visit our website at www.cpwf.co.uk

John Eardley writes to Cabinet Minister again!

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

Llanelltyd

Dolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

9th February 2018

Lesley Griffiths AM

Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs

National Assembly for Wales

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff

CF99 1NA

 By email to Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales   (for the personal attention of the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs)

Dear Minister,

I contacted you, along with fellow co-signatories representing anglers on the Afon Ogwen, Mawddach & Wnion, by emailed letter on 1st February to raise our concerns at the application by Natural Resources Wales to Welsh Government to introduce new byelaws re catch controls for salmon & sea trout (Letter Ref LG/00271/18).

I have spoken at some length this morning to Ceri Davies (NRW Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting) who informs me that they have now sent the papers regarding the application to your office. It would therefore be helpful if the serious concerns that we raised in our “Evidence case re NRW Stocks Assessment Technical Report” (P4 onwards) regarding the use by NRW of the Management Target, which is not an applied measure in the formal Compliance procedures for Assessing Stocksand 5 Year forward forecasts which are have declined from 41% to just 18% accuracy in the last validated periods, were considered alongside the data which has been presented by the NRW Fisheries Team.

One of the things that Ceri wanted to talk about was a joint approach by NRW and Angling Stakeholders to help tackle some of the problems associated with Agricultural Pollution. Whilst we have always been keen advocates and participants of partnership working through both our own organisations and Angling Trusts, that relationship can only break down if Welsh Government ratifies the NRW Board decision. One of my colleagues has already written to you on the 7th February (Letter Ref LG/00305/18) with a suggested way forward which would achieve a similar if not better outcome.

I would be more than happy to meet with either yourself and/or members of your team to justify the statements I have made regarding the use of data by the NRW Fisheries Team.

Yours sincerely

 

John Eardley

Strategy Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

Campaign writes to the minister: again re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals

CAMPAIGN FOR THE PROTECTION OF WELSH FISHERIES

PresidentAllan Cuthbert

7 Norton Avenue

Prestatyn

Denbighshire

LL19 7NL

 

Email: 1highplains@gmail.com

Strategy OfficerJohn Eardley

c/o Vanner Farm & Caravan Site

Llanelltyd

Dolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

Email: johneardley@btinternet.com

 

Conservation OfficerChris White

57 Normanby Drive

Connahs Quay

Flintshire

CH5 4JX

 

Email:chriswhite.cohite@gmail.com

Re: NRW fisheries bylaw proposals                                                          7 February 2018

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your recent response on the above issue I fully appreciate that until NRW presents their proposals you are not in a position to make any comment.  Our concern is that you will be persuaded to approve the proposals without providing the major stakeholders a chance to voice our concerns and offer a solution which does not require legislation.

It was clear from the consultation that 83% of responders opposed the proposed bylaws, the majority from North Wales as they have most to lose.

Since the NRW Board meeting on 18 January stakeholders have met from across North Wales to look for alternatives to the proposed bylaws which will provide the same or better outcome than through legislation.  If legislation is implemented it cannot be policed, local clubs on the other hand can police their own members.

As well as support from many clubs in North Wales, we have the support of several clubs from mid and South Wales, and will be in discussion with other Trusts and clubs across Wales shortly.  Having talked to, and having the support of, both the North Wales Rivers Trusts and Afonydd Cymru, we would offer the following solution.

These are our outline proposals:

  • Use the Rivers Trusts, working in co-operation with stakeholders and NRW to assess stock levels in individual river systems.  Trusts, using their local volunteers, have far better knowledge of their rivers and can obtain accurate catch returns and stock assessments from clubs.  We could then categorise our rivers as has been done in Scotland and Ireland. If rivers require additional restrictions due to low stock levels at least we would have the support of the affected clubs as we will be working in partnership with them.
  • By working with clubs we can involve the local community in assessing the state of their rivers and work with them to ensure workable conservation measures are put in place.
  • Afonydd Cymru would act as the co-ordinator for the Rivers Trusts and would liaise with NRW on technical matters.  This would be cost neutral and would go a long way to bridge the budget gap NRW fisheries are now facing.

There is still a lot of detail to be ironed out but we believe that we have basis of a workable solution without resorting to legislation.  We would be pleased to meet with you or your Environment Minister (Hanna Blythyn) to explain both our concerns and the way forward.

Regards

Chris White

Conservation Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

 

CPWF has the support of freshwater and sea anglers in Wales.

Visit our website at www.cpwf.co.uk

NRW juvenile summaries from the surveys carried out in 2017.

A number of major catchments are missing due to the high flows during the summer of 2017

If you wish to examined these  plus Know your rivers – salmon and sea trout catchment summaries then please click here

 

Another letter to Lesley Griffiths: by John Eardley . Thanks John.

c/o Vanner Farm & Caravan Site

Llanelltyd

Dolgellau

Gwynedd

LL40 2HE

 

26th January 2018

Lesley Griffiths AM

Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs

National Assembly for Wales

CardiffBay

Cardiff

CF99 1NA

By email to Lesley.Griffiths@assembly.wales (for the personal attention of the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs)

 Copies to:

Carwyn Jones (First Minister)

Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM

Siân Gwenllian AM

Liz Saville Roberts MP

Mark Lloyd (Angling Trust)

 

Dear Minister,

A number of angling representatives attended the Natural Resources Wales Board Meeting at Reichel Hall, BangorUniversity on Thursday 18th January. Our principal concern was that the Board would endorse the proposal to apply to Welsh Government for confirmation of new fishing byelaws. As you will now be aware, our worst fears were realised, albeit in a decision that was far from clear-cut.

Several board members expressed their concerns that although there is a shared goal of seeing an improvement in fish stocks, there is a wide difference between NRW and angling interests as to the best means of achieving this. Furthermore there were very real concerns that failure to work with the angling community would result in the proposals failing to deliver their intended outcome and we believe that a golden opportunity was missed in the rejection of a suggestion to defer the application to Welsh Government whilst seeking a voluntary approach in partnership with stakeholders from the angling community. Ultimately of course 2 other factors narrowly won the day:

  1. The need to be seen to support the Executive Team who have been advised by NRW Fisheries
  2. The feeling that to step back from taking a decision would be perceived as negligent, particularly in light of the bleak picture painted of salmon and sea trout stocks in the Technical Case document used to support the proposals

Whilst our concerns on the negative impact of these proposals on both angling tourism and the very future of angling clubs along with their serious practical shortcomings were well documented in a letter to Hannah Blythyn dated 30th November (to which you replied on 12th December LG/05304/17), you were unable to comment further until NRW had completed their analysis and the board had made their decision.

We request that the Welsh Government do not endorse the NRW Board request to introduce new byelaws relating to Catch Controls for the following reasons:

  1. The evidence that was presented by NRW Fisheries is neither “sound” nor “quality assured” and is so deeply flawed that we are currently taking advice on legal action. Any such action would mirror that which is currently being undertaken in the North West of England against the Environment Agency. Our supporting evidence is contained within the “Evidence case re NRW Stocks Assessment Technical Report” at the end of this letter.
  2. The introduction of Mandatory C&R will not deliver any improvement in fish stocks. This was pointed out by Board Member, Professor Linda Warren, at the July 2015 Board Meeting when these proposals were first discussed. To state that “we don’t know how much worse it would have been” does not constitute evidence of its effectiveness.
  3. The proposals cannot, and will, not deliver the desired outcome. NRW is currently unable to deal with illegal fishing and simply does not have the resources to police any new byelaws. Furthermore with anglers driven away from the riverbank an important deterrent will be removed thereby increasing the amount of illegal activity. In addition a reduction in the number of anglers, together with the alienation of the angling community, will have a negative impact on the intelligence reports that the overworked enforcement officers heavily rely on.
  4. The failure to effectively engage angling stakeholders, and the need to take steps to remedy this, was clearly stated at the end of the Board Meeting. However to do this after a decision has been made which will clearly alienate stakeholders is nonsensical. Many of us, who have led the conservation agenda within our own organisations, see little purpose in attending future meetings with NRW when it would appear that our opinions, together with our experience and knowledge of our own rivers, counts for so little. This has the potential to have a serious adverse impact on the delivery of future River Restoration Plans.
    1. The intrinsic and socio-economic value of Salmon and Sea Trout fishing has been ignored by NRW, who within their remit have a duty to enhance its appeal. They have knowingly, developed measures, including severe fishing method restrictions which, if imposed upon fishermen, would relegate the pursuit and deny its cultural worth. With freedom of choice denied and our ability to shape measures to achieve resilience removed, we face a future of unsustainability and limited ability to proactively improve fish stocks.[r1]
    2. The approach to tackling Agricultural Pollution is to work with farmers to achieve the desired outcome (See “The Approach to Nitrate Pollution from Agriculture” – P7). Despite stating that “we do not believe that anglers are the cause of the problem”, NRW Fisheries Team has adopted a legislative approach . This clear issue of inequality must be addressed.
    3. We completely refute the statement on P95 of the “Technical Case Structure” that “Voluntary measures have been promoted for some considerable time and are unlikely to substantially change further in the short term”. A co-operative approach between the NRW Fisheries Team and angling organisations would deliver a much better outcome than continuing with the introduction of legislation which is doomed to failure from the outset.

 

NRW has stated that it “aims to deliver widespread and positive partnership working” but in order to do that it must engage with angling stakeholders. There is a feeling that having invested so much time and resources in pursuing its “preferred option” it has backed itself into a corner and the result is an “emperor’s new clothes” scenario which Welsh Government must bring to an end. To achieve that the proposals to introduce new byelaws must be deferred until such time as:

 

  1. A thorough review of stock status assessment by EA, NRW & CEFAS has been undertaken
  2. A collaborative approach to improving voluntary release rates, effectively tackling illegal activity and implementing River Restoration plans, including a timeline for implementation, has been developed through Local Fisheries Advisory Groups.
  3. Such a collaborative approach has been given a fair chance to work.

If we can reach agreement on this, and start to repair the damage that has been caused to the relationship between the NRW Fisheries Team and angling interests since this whole sorry saga began, then we would of course immediately suspend any planned legal challenge. This has to be the way forward.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

John Eardley – Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group Representative – Prince Albert Angling Society


 

Just to let you know that we are still fighting the good fight

Thank you Chris White!

Dear Minister,

 

Campaign For The Protection Of Welsh Fisheries

 

Dear Minister,

Re: January NRW Board meeting 18 January 2018 – Fisheries presentation

At the Board meeting on Thursday 18 January the Chair of the NRW Board approved the proposed changes to fishing regulations in Wales.  For the sake of clarity what is proposed is a National, Wales only, salmon and sea trout regulation.  At present each individual river system has bylaws to reflect the differing characteristics of the rivers they refer to e.g. differing start dates to the fishing season and different method restrictions, including sanctuary areas where fishing is not permitted. These bylaws are fair and proportionate as they reflect the conditions on each river.  The NRW proposals are neither fair nor proportionate.

Whilst it is accepted that some rivers are in serious decline, rather than deal on a river by river basis, working with stakeholders, NRW has chosen to take the easy (cost effective?) route of applying blanket restrictions which will do little or nothing to reverse the decline but will have a significant impact on the rural economy.  The socio economic effect of these proposals, and the effect that this will have on the health and well being of the community, particularly in North Wales where many angling clubs are community based should not be underestimated.  These clubs provide cost effective recreation to both locals and visitors alike.  Legislation as proposed will see membership of these local clubs reduce as method restrictions will mean many rivers become substantially unfishable; this will result in their closure due to lack of funds.

Most angling clubs in Wales impose strict conditions on their members and most well run clubs have more control over member’s actions than any statutory regulations and in many cases club rules are far more stringent than the bylaws.

In North Wales anglers and riparian owners contributed significantly to the buyout of nets on the rivers Clwyd and Dee, as nets killed more salmon than anglers, there should have been a reversal of the decline in salmon numbers.  There has been no improvement in angler catches and salmon stocks have declined further despite the removal of nets. The NRW admit that anglers are not the problem and also admit that the draconian measures proposed   will not reverse this decline.  After over 18 years of compulsory catch and release for spring salmon there has been no significant improvement in spring fish stocks.

It was noted that in terms of agricultural pollution, which has a significant impact on the recruitment of salmon and sea trout, that on 13 December 2017 as Cabinet Secretary you were quoted in the press as saying that you want “the right balance of regulation, voluntary measures and investment to tackle pollution from farming” and although backing an “all-Wales approach” you will look at giving farmers flexibility to “achieve the same or better outcomes” than with regulation, this same flexibility should apply to angling which is already well regulated.

At the NRW Board meeting on the 18 January several Board members suggested that there should be a deferment on the proposal as it was clear from the responses to the consultation that NRW had failed to engage with its major stakeholders i.e. there had been no consultation with stakeholders on effective voluntary controls.  The issue of enforcement was also discussed as the reduction in enforcement officers, who now multitask, means that there will be ineffective enforcement of the proposed regulations.  We are told that any transgression reported to NRW will be treated as a priority, as happens now with poaching incidents, this just means sticking a pin in a map (the intelligence lead approach).  When we do report poaching incidents we get no response; poachers probably take more salmon from our rivers than licensed anglers, knowing that they will never be caught.  Any new regulations will rely upon the honesty of anglers to abide by them.  NRW has dismissed an opportunity to work with and educate those clubs who are perceived to be taking too many fish.

It was the Chair of the meeting (Diane McCrea) who made the final decision as she deferred to the NRW Executive team who claimed that they could not afford any more salmon to be taken from our rivers and the Executive, not surprisingly, supported their fisheries staff.  One executive member, Tim Jones, had previously made a statement, prior to the consultation on hatchery closures, at a joint Local Fisheries Advisory Group meeting telling those present that, unlike the Government, NRW were not bound by any responses to the consultation they receive.  It was clear from the 549 responses received in respect of the proposed fisheries regulations that the majority were opposed to the measures.  The members of the NRW Board recognised this but their suggestion for a deferral to seek voluntary measures working with the major stakeholders was discounted in favour of the executive team who not surprisingly supported the proposals.

You may well be told that there is some urgency in passing the proposed legislation due to the perilous state of salmon stocks at a time where there is a natural recovery on some rivers.  It may be mentioned that in Northern Ireland they instituted changes to their fisheries regulations in a matter of four days.  However, in Northern Ireland they have not issued a blanket regulation, they have assessed their rivers and chosen the most appropriate action for each river; in some case this is to close the rivers to fishing for a twelve month period.  In Scotland compulsory catch and release extends to 30 June and they assess fish stocks annually carrying out categorisation of their rivers and amend the regulations as fishing conditions change, allowing fish to be taken on Category 1 rivers.

Principally due to diffuse pollution and avian predation, it is estimated that at least 40% of the smolts fail to reach the sea and up to 50% of the eggs fail to hatch (and more in some years) due to water conditions (warm winters/floods/diffuse pollution).

By 1999 most of our salmon fisheries had seen a dramatic decline in the numbers of multi sea winter (MSW) salmon returning to our rivers. The impact of the Irish Sea driftnets on the numbers of salmon destined for Welsh rivers has not been taken into consideration.  Since the closure of the Irish driftnet fishery we are now seeing more MSW salmon arriving back in our rivers as they are not being netted at sea, this may well lead to a rapid recovery in many rivers as being larger than grilse MWS salmon lay more eggs.

The NRW approach is to implement a pan-Wales regulation for a 10 year period irrespective of the river conditions with a review after a 5 year period i.e. a do nothing and wait and see approach.  This appears to be more to do with cost cutting than reversing the decline in fish stocks.  Nothing in the NRW proposals will improve the decline in fish stocks; it is the survival from egg to smolt which has the greatest effect on salmon numbers; getting more smolts to sea is the answer but the NRW proposals will not achieve this (we can do little about marine survival).

The loss of grilse (salmon spending one winter at sea) is primarily due to climatic changes in the North Atlantic (the North Atlantic Oscillation); there is historical data from Scottish netting stations dating from 1572 which demonstrates the cyclic nature of salmon abundance, with frequent decline in the numbers of grilse recorded.

In summary:

  • There is no evidence that compulsory catch and release (C&R) is effective in improving recruitment of salmon.  This was raised at the 2015 NRW Board meeting when it was explained that in 1998 a National Salmon Fisheries Regulation was introduced which required all salmon to be returned until 16 June in order to protect spring fish stocks, After 18 years this regulation has seen little or no improvement in salmon stocks so why do NRW consider that extending this will have any effect?
  • Several Scottish rivers adopted a voluntary C&R policy more than 20 years ago with a 98% compliance rate and yet salmon stocks still declined.
  • Between 2013 and 2016 there were circa 3000 pollution incidents in Welsh rivers, but only 1% of incidents were prosecuted.  Pollution incidents have a far greater effect on recruitment of salmon than angling.
  • The data complied by NRW is based upon angler catch returns which are notoriously inaccurate as there is sadly a culture of not reporting what is caught due to the fear of the costs of fishing increasing if actual numbers are declared.
  • Had NRW engaged with its major stakeholders to implement voluntary measures it could have saved a lot of time and money.
  • Over the past 5 years the weather patterns have had a significant effect on both angler catches (due to varying flows) and recruitment (due to flood events).  The poor fry and parr results in 2016 are being used to justify the proposals even though NRW acknowledges the effect of the weather on recruitment over the past 5 years. With good rainfall during the 2017 fishing season catches on some rivers were significantly improved as were parr counts.
  • One of the major contributors to smolts failing to reach the sea is due to avian predation (goosanders and cormorants), it is estimated that this accounts for 40% of the migrating smolts during low flow conditions.  Avian predation occurs throughout the year with goosanders eating eggs/fry/parr as well as migrating smolts.  Goosanders are not a native bird they arrived in Scotland in the 1950’s, there were just 10 breeding pairs in Wales by 1977 and they have since spread throughout the UK, damaging fisheries as they have multiplied with over 1,000 pairs distributed throughout Wales.  Increased control of avian predation would have a far greater impact than anything in the NRW proposals and yet the NRW have publicly stated that they have no plans to increase licensed culls and recommend scaring predators away from a fishery, this is almost risible as the fish eating birds will just fly to the next fishery and continue to eat fish.

The vast majority of salmon fishers now voluntarily return their fish, some clubs achieving 98% in 2107, there are a few who will still take too many fish but these are in a minority and are normally dealt with by their angling clubs, most of whom impose strict catch quotas.

If legislation, as proposed, is introduced it will be almost impossible for NRW to enforce, there is neither the enforcement staff nor the budget to ensure the regulations are followed i.e. there is a reliance on anglers doing the right thing.  It is far better to work with angling organisations and rely on voluntary method restrictions managed by local angling clubs.  If this legislation is progressed it will effectively risk the closure of some fishing clubs in Wales and signal the end of game fishing on some North Wales rivers.

Anglers are not the root cause of the decline in fish stocks and yet they are being targeted as if they were.

 

Regards

Chris White

Conservation Officer: Campaign For The Protection Of Welsh Fisheries