Last update: 26th November 2019

Back from the Minister 20 November 2019

Lesley Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

Ein cyf/Our ref LG/07443/19

Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government

John Eardley johneardley@btinternet.com

%r Hrfiudl          c)o November2019

Thank you for your letter of 13 November,           garding my previous response to you under LG/07251/19. I apologise the attachrne.i:it{cited was not provided. It is now attached for you to consider alongside my answers to your original questions.

I note you have raised a further question in your most recent letter on my previous decision to decline invitations to meet and discuss the All Wales byelaws. During the course of the Inquiry I declined all meeting requests on this matter to ensure no bias was provided to any particular individual or group ahead of the final report.

I hope moving forward the joint work to develop the Plan of Action will contribute to restoring the relationship between Natural Resources Wales and stakeholders. My officials will also be contributing to these efforts and will keep me informed on future developments.

lour0 0    Lf\ Gl  1-LLLj

Lesley Gri iths AC/AM

Gweinidog       Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materidq g,wledig Minister for En· errt, Energy and Rural Affairs

Bae Caerdydd • Cardiff Bay

Caerdydd  • Cardiff

CF99 1NA

Canolfan Cyswllt Cyntaf / First Point of Contact Centre:

0300 0604400

Gohebiaeth. Lesley.Griffi ths @ll yw. cymru Correspondence.Lesley.Griffi   ths @gov.wales

Rydym yn croesawu derbyn gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg. Byddwn yn ateb gohebiaeth a dderbynnir yn Gymraeg yn Gymraeg ac ni fydd gohebu yn Gymraeg yn arwain at oedi.

We welcome receiving correspondence in Welsh.  Any correspondence received in Welsh will beanswered in  Welsh and corresponding in Welsh will not lead to a delay in responding.

Back to the Minister. Thanks John Eardley

13th November 2019

Lesley Griffiths AM – Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

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

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your letter Ref: LG/07251/19 dated 28th October. Whilst further dialogue seems somewhat futile there are nevertheless certain points which require a response.

  • You make the point that:

“NASCO guidance states (document also attached):

‘The decision as to whether, and if so where and when, catch and release is appropriate, should be made by those managing the specific fishery concerned in the light of all the known factors about that particular stock.

The publication of these guidelines and their adoption by NASCO does not imply that NASCO endorses catch and release in any particular circumstances.’”

Since there was no document attached to your letter we remain in the dark regarding the source of this statement, particularly as it is conspicuous by its absence within the key document CNL(14)71 NASCO Implementation Plan for the period 2013-18 EU – UK (England and Wales).

  • For those rivers in Wales with a mean catch of less than 20 salmon it is difficult to see how you can be “content (that) the All Wales Byelaws are consistent with the principles and guidance developed by NASCO” when, as we have previously pointed out, NASCO states that voluntary and not mandatory measures should be promoted on those rivers.
  • In your response to our request for deferment of the All Wales Byelaws for a year, in order to allow for the promotion of voluntary measures you make reference to your “discussions with many officials and stakeholders” and yet every reasonable request that has been made by angling stakeholders for a face to face meeting with yourself in order to fully explain our concerns has been met with point blank refusal.
  • Your statement “Most local angling clubs are already operating with a high rate of voluntary catch and release measures. Therefore, only a small percentage of anglers might be deterred from visiting and participating in angling, when the new Byelaws come into force” fails to recognise the different response by anglers to voluntary and mandatory measures. We reiterate our original statement: “A significant number of anglers, local and visiting alike, no longer fish when Mandatory Catch & Release is introduced and as a result clubs lose both members and revenue. As a result they can no longer afford to rent some of their waters and those who wish to continue fishing are denied access. Local angling clubs do not “thrive” in those circumstances and their future existence very much hangs in the balance”
  • With reference to the Dee and Conwy it is again difficult to see how you can be “content (that) the All Wales Byelaws are consistent with the principles and guidance developed by NASCO” when both

rivers are fully compliant with NASCO Policy in meeting their voluntary targets and yet you seek to impose mandatory measures and in so doing further alienate angling stakeholders.

  • You also make reference to the fact that “NRW have adequately recognised the benefits of voluntary catch and release measures and they have engaged appropriately with stakeholders in promoting these over the past 5 years, as an attempt to bring in a voluntary solution” and yet at the NRW Board Meeting on 18th January 2018 there was clear recognition by both the board and executive that they had “failed to engage properly with stakeholders” in developing the All Wales Byelaws.

Since July 2015 there has been a constant refusal by NRW to even begin to discuss the options for a voluntary solution and we are now met with further intransigence from Welsh Government. The leader of the UK Labour Party spoke last week of a “government that’s on your side “and “real politics is about ‘bringing people together to stand up for their community’”. In the context of the All Wales Byelaws those words have a very hollow ring to most of us in the angling community.

John Eardley – Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Dr Robin Parry – Chair, Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group

Mervyn Williams – Chair, Dee Local Fisheries Advisory Group

On behalf of:

Bangor on Dee Salmon Angling Association Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries Capenhurst Angling Club

Chirk Syndicate

Clwyd Federation of Angling Clubs

Corwen and District Angling Club

Dee Fisheries Association

Dolgellau Angling Association

Dolwyddelan Angling Association

Llanbrynmair Angling Association

Llangollen Maelor Angling

Llyn Guides

New Dovey Fishery Association (1929) Ltd

Ogwen Valley Angling Association

Penrhyn Fishing Club

Prince Albert Angling Society

Rhagatt Estate

Rhyl & St. Asaph Angling Association

Rossett and Gresford Fly Fishers

Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Fishing Society

Vale of Clwyd Angling Club

Wirral Game Fishing Club

And the Minister says?

Lesley Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

Ein cyf/Our ref LG/07251/19

Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government

John Eardley, Dr Robin Parry, Mervyn Williams

johneardley@btinternet.com

28 October 2019

Thank you for your letter of 18 October, regarding my response to you under LG/06996/19, to your concerns about my decision to approve Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) ‘All Wales’ Rod and Line (salmon and sea trout) byelaws. I will address the points raised in your letter in the same numbered order.

  1. NASCO guidance states (document also attached):

‘The decision as to whether, and if so where and when, catch and release is appropriate, should be made by those managing the specific fishery concerned in the light of all the known factors about that particular stock.

The publication of these guidelines and their adoption by NASCO does not imply that NASCO endorses catch and release in any particular circumstances.’

The lines above confirm NASCO do not endorse catch and release measures in particular circumstances but the decision on whether to introduce such measures resides with those specifically managing the fishery. The authority with the power to make this decision in Wales, is NRW. On this basis, I am content NRW as the manager of the specific fisheries for Wales, are therefore not breaching or contravening NASCO policy.

As previously explained, NRW have promoted voluntary catch and release measures since 2014 and although there has been a commendable improvement in the number of fish released by anglers across Wales, the target levels required to give salmon and sea trout the best chance of recovery have not been met. I have therefore confirmed the All Wales byelaw proposals put forward by NRW to make it a mandatory measure to practice catch and release and these byelaws will come into force from 1 January 2020.

Bae Caerdydd  •  Cardiff Bay

Caerdydd  • Cardiff

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0300 0604400

Gohebiaeth .Lesle y.Grif fit hs@ll yw.cymru Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales

Rydym yn croesawu derbyn gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg. Byddwn yn ateb gohebiaeth a dderbynnir yn Gymraeg yn Gymraeg ac ni fydd gohebu yn Gymraeg yn arwain at oedi.

We welcome receiving correspondence in Welsh. Any correspondence received in Welsh will be answered in Welsh and corresponding in Welsh will notlead to a delay in responding.

  • I acknowledge your request for all rivers in Wales with a mean catch of less than 20 salmon, to be excluded from the All Wales Byelaws. However, I am content the All Wales Byelaws are consistent with the principles and guidance developed by NASCO and voluntary catch and release efforts have already been promoted across rivers within Wales (as per my response under point 1). These rivers shall therefore remain under the All Wales Byelaw regulations.
  • My position on a deferment of the All Wales Byelaws for a year, in order to allow for the promotion of voluntary measures, remains the same. I have reviewed both the Inspector’s recommendation report following the inquiry and the recently published stock assessments and from discussions with many officials and stakeholders, I believe such these measures are necessary in response to a wide scale decline in fish stocks for both salmon and sea trout.

Most local angling clubs are already operating with a high rate of voluntary catch and release measures. Therefore, only a small percentage of anglers might be deterred from visiting and participating in angling, when the new Byelaws come into force.

NRW’s byelaw proposals sit outside the requirements to provide compensation under section 212 of the Water Resources Act 1991 and this was addressed within their evidence submitted to the inquiry, under document APP49. If owners or occupiers believe they are injuriously affected by the Byelaws once they’ve come into force, then under the Water Resources Act 1991, compensation may be sought.

With regards to your last bullet under point 3 relating to the rivers Dee and Conwy, I am of the same opinion for those rivers, as my answer provided in point 2 above.

Finally, I believe NRW have adequately recognised the benefits of voluntary catch and release measures and they have engaged appropriately with stakeholders in promoting these over the past 5 years, as an attempt to bring in a voluntary solution. Unfortunately, at present, voluntary measures alone are not enough to reverse the decline in salmon and sea trout.

I hope you and all anglers will take the opportunity to contribute to the Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action, ahead of the byelaws coming into force on 1 January 2020. The purpose of the Plan of Action is to set out all the current work being taken forward to restore salmon and sea trout stocks and, in addition, to identify any new issues or gaps and the actions needed to address them.

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Lesley  Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinid  g yr Amgylcheqd’ , Ynni a Mat  rion Minister fM                        nvironmerfl, Energy and Rbi:avn

Back to the Minister

18th October 2019

Lesley Griffiths AM – Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

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

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your letter Ref: LG/06996/19 dated 15th October. In our original letter dated 27th September we highlighted 3 key issues:

1.               Confirmation of the The Cross-Border Rivers Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (Wales) Byelaws 2019 would be a clear contravention of NASCO policy.

  • The confirmation of the All Wales Byelaws for introduction on 1st January 2020 for all rivers in Wales which have a mean catch of less than 20 salmon is a clear contravention of NASCO policy
  • We make a formal request that the introduction of the All Wales Byelaws is deferred until such time as voluntary C&R has been promoted for 1 year as set out in the NASCO Decision Making Structure.

On the first of these issues your reply does not make any reference to the Cross-Border Rivers Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (Wales) Byelaws 2019. Our original letter quoted the following text from NRW’s “Know Your River” document:

The release rate in 2017 was 91%. This is an excellent result and needs to be maintained”

In fact the recently released 2018 figures show that the voluntary return rate on the Dee has risen yet again to 94%. We must therefore emphasise the point that if you were to approve NRW’s request for new Cross Border Byelaws for the Dee that would be a clear contravention of NASCO policy and would further exacerbate the alienation of angling stakeholders.

On the second issue your letter makes no reference to our formal request that all rivers in Wales with a mean catch of less than 20 salmon are excluded from the All Wales Byelaws. You state that you “are content these byelaws are consistent with the principles and guidance developed by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation” yet NASCO policy is quite clear in pointing out that on these rivers “voluntary measures will be promoted”. There should be no follow up measure of considering “Mandatory C&R” or “Closure of the Fishery” and therefore this aspect of the All Wales Byelaws is not consistent with the principles and guidance developed by NASCO.

On the third issue you make it very clear that “deferment is not an option I am willing to consider”. You support your decision with a number of points which cannot go unchallenged:

  • “salmon and sea trout stocks are declining in Wales

As we pointed out in our original letter there is considerable variation in stocks of both salmon and sea trout across Wales. The picture is not one of universal decline.

  • “I see this as a clear sign local angling clubs will continue to thrive and adapt if this ethos is passed on to new members”.

This is not true. A significant number of anglers, local and visiting alike, no longer fish when Mandatory Catch & Release is introduced and as a result clubs lose both members and revenue. As a result they can no longer afford to rent some of their waters and those who wish to continue fishing are denied access. Local angling clubs do not “thrive” in those circumstances and their future existence very much hangs in the balance. This is further exacerbated by ill-informed method restrictions which make lengthy stretches of many North Wales spate rivers effectively unfishable. Whilst we have been given legal advice that under the terms of the Water Resources Act 1991 compensation may be sought when “the owner or occupier of any fishery by notice to the [appropriate agency] claims that the fishery is injuriously affected by a byelaw”, that is of little comfort when our waters are no longer fishable.

  • “NRW have been promoting voluntary catch and release measures since 2014. Although there has been a commendable improvement in the number of fish released by anglers across Wales, the target levels required to give salmon and sea trout the best chance of recovery have not been met.” Analysis of the recently released “Salmonid and Freshwater Fisheries Statistics for England and Wales, 2018”, produced jointly by NRW & EA, reveals that the voluntary release rate has risen yet again and now stands at 88% across Wales. Furthermore 100% of the salmon were voluntarily released on 8 of the 20 principal salmon rivers which are currently subject to voluntary measures. In addition a further 2 of those rivers, Dee (94%) and Conwy (91%), are fully compliant with NASCO Policy. On all of these rivers targets are being met and voluntary measures should continue.

There has been a clear failure on the part of NRW to recognise that a voluntary solution is a realistic and sustainable solution to any threat to our salmon stocks. That option has never been discussed in any meaningful way and is conspicuous by its absence in any of the board papers leading to the byelaws decision. Until that is recognised and properly addressed there can be little prospect of the collaborative solution which our rivers so richly deserve.

Yours sincerely

John Eardley – Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Dr Robin Parry – Chair, Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group

Mervyn Williams – Chair, Dee Local Fisheries Advisory Group

On behalf of:

Bangor on Dee Salmon Angling Association Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Capenhurst Angling Club Chirk Syndicate

Clwyd Federation of Angling Clubs Corwen and District Angling Club Dee Fisheries Association Dolgellau Angling Association Dolwyddelan Angling Association Llanbrynmair Angling Association Llangollen Maelor Angling

Llyn Guides

New Dovey Fishery Association (1929) Ltd

Ogwen Valley Angling Association

Penrhyn Fishing Club

Prince Albert Angling Society

Rhagatt Estate

Rhyl & St. Asaph Angling Association

Rossett and Gresford Fly Fishers

Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Fishing Society

Vale of Clwyd Angling Club

Wirral Game Fishing Club

The Minister replies.

Lesley Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

Ein cyf/Our ref LG/06996/19 John Eardley johneardley@btinternet.com

Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government

t5 October 2019

Thank you for your letter of 27 Septem          r, regarding North Wales angling representative’s concerns about my decision to approve Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) ‘All Wales’ Rod and Line (salmon and sea trout) byelaws.

In common with other parts of the UK and Europe, salmon and sea trout stocks are declining in Wales. To avoid stocks falling to unsafe levels, which may lead to stock collapse, we must take action now.

The majority of anglers in Wales (86%) already voluntarily return the salmon they catch and this number is increasing which is very encouraging . This demonstrates the care and respect anglers show for salmon and their wish to protect them for the future. I see this as a clear sign local angling clubs will continue to thrive and adapt if this ethos is passed on to new members.

I understand some anglers were disappointed by my decision to approve the byelaws, but please be assured it was not taken lightly. I would encourage you and all anglers to take the opportunity to contribute to the Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action which I have tasked NRW to produce together with stakeholders ahead of the byelaws coming into force on 1 January 2020.

I note your request for the introduction of the byelaws to be deferred by a year. NRW have been promoting voluntary catch and release measures since 2014. Although there has been a commendable improvement in the number of fish released by anglers across Wales, the target levels required to give salmon and sea trout the best chance of recovery have not been met. As a result, a deferment is not an option I am willing to consider.

Bae Caerdydd  •  Cardiff Bay

Caerdydd • Cardiff

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Canolfan Cyswllt Cyntaf I First Point of Contact Centre:

0300 0604400

Gohebiaeth .Lesley. Griffi ths @ll yw.cymru Corresp ondence.Lesley. Gri ffi ths @gov.wales

Rydym yn croesawu derbyn gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg. Byddwn yn ateb gohebiaeth a dderbynnir yn Gymraeg yn Gymraeg ac ni fydd gohebu yn Gymraeg yn arwain at oedi.

We welcome receiving correspondence in Welsh. Any correspondence received in Welsh will be answered in  Welsh and corresponding in Welsh will not lead to a delay in responding.

I am content these byelaws are consistent with the principles and guidance developed by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) and follow a precautionary approach in response to the poor status of stocks in Wales. At a time when every fish is important, the byelaws will provide clear, enforceable measures to protect salmon and sea trout whilst at the same time allowing angling continue.

Lesley Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

Dear Ms Pillman,

12th October 2019

Clare Pillman – Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales By email to Clare.Pillman@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Dear Ms Pillman,

Thank you for your letter Ref: CX19-187 dated 8th October. Whilst your response makes further correspondence seem rather futile there are nevertheless certain points that cannot go unchallenged.

There has been a clear failure on the part of NRW to recognise that a voluntary solution is a realistic and sustainable solution to any threat to our salmon stocks. That option has never been discussed in any meaningful way and is conspicuous by its absence in any of the board papers leading to the byelaws decision. You will also be aware from other correspondence that there is considerable variation in stocks of both salmon and sea trout across Wales. The picture is not one of universal decline.

You refer to the “urgency of the situation in which we now find ourselves” yet the reality is that the situation is already being dealt with voluntarily. Analysis of the recently released “Salmonid and Freshwater Fisheries Statistics for England and Wales, 2018”, produced jointly by NRW & EA, reveals that the voluntary release rate has risen yet again and now stands at 88% across Wales. Furthermore 100% of the salmon were voluntarily released on 8 of the 22 principal salmon rivers with a further 2, Dee (94%) and Conwy (91%), being fully compliant with NASCO Policy.

Most significantly you state that those anglers who release all of the fish they catch “will note little difference under the new regime”. This is not true. A significant number of anglers, local and visiting alike, no longer fish when Mandatory Catch & Release is introduced and as a result clubs lose both members and revenue. As a result they can no longer afford to rent some of their waters and those who wish to continue fishing “under the new regime” are denied access. The very future of smaller community based angling clubs is under threat.

Unless the above issues are recognised and addressed there is little prospect of constructive dialogue. Yours sincerely

John Eardley – Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Dr Robin Parry – Chair, Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group

Mervyn Williams – Chair, Dee Local Fisheries Advisory Group

On behalf of:

Bangor on Dee Salmon Angling Association

Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Capenhurst Angling Club

Chirk Syndicate

Clwyd Federation of Angling Clubs

Corwen and District Angling Club

Dee Fisheries Association

Dolgellau Angling Association

Dolwyddelan Angling Association

Llanbrynmair Angling Association

Llangollen Maelor Angling

Llyn Guides

New Dovey Fishery Association (1929) Ltd

Ogwen Valley Angling Association

Penrhyn Fishing Club

Prince Albert Angling Society

Rhagatt Estate

Rhyl & St. Asaph Angling Association

Rossett and Gresford Fly Fishers

Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Fishing Society

Vale of Clwyd Angling Club

Wirral Game Fishing Club

A note from our Conservation Officer

All,

I have just received the NRW Board paper on FEB’s, don’t hold your breath on any meaningful action on FEB’s!  There is no acknowledgement that goosanders were not a native British bird and were not recorded on Welsh rivers until the 1970’s.  Whilst goosander did overwinter on the East Coast of Scotland they are now present on all UK rivers as overwintered birds stayed on Scottish rivers and started to breed.  Looking at the numbers in the report with 1300 pairs of overwinter birds (3 months?) assuming they eat 400gm of fish per day then in 3 months between them they would potentially consume circa 1 Tonne of fish much of which in Wales will be made up of salmonids.  Feel free to circulate to your members.

Chris

REPLY FROM CLARE PILLMAN

Ein cyf/Our ref: CX19-187 Your Ref:

Ty Cambria / Cambria House

29 Heol Casnewydd / 29 Newport Road Caerdydd / Cardiff

CF24 0TP / CF24 0TP

Ebost/Email: Chiefexecutivesoffice@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk Chiefexecutivesoffice@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

John Eardley

c/o Vanner Farm & Caravan Site Llanelltyd

Dolgellau Gwynedd LL40 2HE

E-mail: johneardley@btinternet.com

08 October 2019 Dear Mr Eardley,

Re. Your correspondence of 27th September 2019

Ffôn/Phone: 0300 065 4453

Thank you for your letter of 27th September, received by e-mail. I am aware that you have corresponded with NRW and the Minister on the same subject on several occasions recently. In responding I am not repeating our responses to the matters that you have already brought to my attention.

It is worth repeating that Wales is facing the most substantial threat yet to the future of our salmon populations, and it appears that the same worrying trend is becoming apparent for sea trout. I note the same appears to be true in many other countries. You express your concern that the management response in Wales appears harsher than that elsewhere in the British Isles, however I understand that Ireland has elected to close rivers to fishing and that statutory C&R fishing applies in many rivers in Scotland and England. The more flexible approach in Scotland and Ireland to which you refer is known to us and, as you are aware, is an area that we are exploring with the Environment Agency. We are clear however that the measures now confirmed by the Minister are necessary, proportionate and reasonable in view of the salmon and sea trout stocks throughout Wales.

I am genuinely sorry that you see little point in future engagement with NRW on the difficult matters surrounding our salmon and sea trout. This is a formative time and, as you will know, the Minister is ensuring not only that her staff engage fully in the process leading to a plan of action but has also encouraged engagement by all stakeholders.

I welcome the fact that most anglers across Wales release the fish they catch – either voluntarily or following the requirements of existing Byelaws. These anglers will note little

Tŷ Cambria · 29 Heol Casnewydd · Caerdydd · CF24 0TP Cambria House · 29 Newport Road · Cardiff · CF24 0TP

difference under the new regime, however those who have declined to follow the practice will now be required to do so. This will provide certainty for all of what is required. NASCO guidelines that encourage one years’ voluntary C&R prior to any mandatory measures have been complied with, as has their encouragement to adopt their ‘precautionary approach’ to salmon management.

I do not support your request for support of a deferral of the byelaws, because of the urgency of the situation in which we now find ourselves. However, this would be a matter for the Minister.

Finally, I will be at the meeting of the Dee and Clwyd LFG on 4th December, and I hope to be able to welcome you to that event.

Yours sincerely

Clare Pillman

Prif Weithredwr, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales

Dear Ms Pillman,

27th September 2019

Clare Pillman

Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales Ty Cambria

29 Newport Road Cardiff

CF24 0TP

By email to Clare.Pillman@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Dear Ms Pillman,

Having been one of the recipients of our letter to the NRW Board dated 16th September 2019, as well as being copied in to both today’s letter to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and recent correspondence from the Minister to CPWF1, you will be fully aware of the frustration and anger expressed by Angling Stakeholders from both the Dee and Gwynedd Local LFGs2 and which was so apparent at our meeting in Corwen on 7th September.

Whilst we appreciate that you will be taking the time and trouble to address a joint meeting of the Dee and Gwynedd Local LFGs on the 4th December, that is far too late in the day to effect meaningful change and on that basis there is a very real risk that a significant number of angling representatives will see little point in bothering to attend.

In addition to the information contained in both our letter to the NRW Board and today’s correspondence to the Minister, we would wish to draw your attention to the following serious concerns:

  1. At the NRW Board Meeting held at Canolfan Cae Cymro, Clawdd Newydd on 9th July 2015 the Chair, Prof Peter Matthews, closed discussion on “management options to address the decline in stocks of salmon and some sea trout in wales” by stating that he hoped their aims “could be achieved without resorting to statutory legislation”. Despite that there has never been any attempt whatsoever to work with us in order to develop a collective and resilient voluntary solution.
  2. NASCO3 International (North Atlantic) Conservation Policy and common Wales & England National Policy has not been followed leading to very different outcomes on either side of the border despite having legally binding common policy and sharing the same shared stock assessment methodology.
  3. Anglers in Wales now face the harshest conservation measures in the British Isles with the prospect of Byelaws lasting for a 10 year period whilst our counterparts in England have been offered the opportunity of a Voluntary Solution as a result of the Environment Agency’s correct application of NASCO Policy. In both Scotland and Ireland annual reviews provide a much more flexible and reasonable approach which, unlike Wales, do not extinguish all hope.

1 Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

2 Local Fisheries Groups

3 North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation

  • The legitimate concerns that have been raised by those of us with great knowledge and experience of not only our own waters but also the attitude and behaviour of our members have been dismissed. These include:
    • Many anglers choose to cease fishing when Mandatory C&R4 is introduced
    • The Byelaws cannot be effectively policed. Despite Board Paper NRW B B 40.15 identifying a “Potential need to re-direct or increase fisheries enforcement resources to enforce any new regulation” the 16.25 FTE5 Enforcement Officers have been reorganised into 10 teams.
    • There is a very real threat to the existence of angling clubs brought about by NRW’s Approach. Those most at risk here are the smaller community based clubs who cannot afford to rent waters as their membership declines
    • There is a serious risk to recruit volunteers to participate in habitat improvement work through the Rivers Trusts
  • What are regarded by Senior Fisheries staff as evidence of having “listened to anglers” and made concessions, namely allowing the use of a single worm for sea trout and the use of a shrimp after 1st September, are in fact clumsy and ill-conceived attempts to ensure that the byelaws are implemented. The following correspondence from Heidi Stone , EA6 National Salmon Programme Manager, takes a very different line:

“The fishing restriction byelaw was withdrawn. We took a very close look at all of the responses we received back and I made the call that, although the intention was sound, the delivery was flawed. To prohibit flying Cs and other methods was impossible to set out legally. The intention to fish with care and empathy cannot be set out in a byelaw and, we have made the decision to proceed with improving angler handling, equipment, methods and (I hope) the ultimate safe release of salmon through codes of practice”.

  • NRW has chosen to adopt a confrontational approach which is entirely counterproductive.
  • NRW chose to instruct Counsel to act in a way which caused untold damage to any future working relationship with angling stakeholders. The following quote from Mark Lloyd, former Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal and a key supporter of a voluntary solution makes that very clear:

“The barrister employed by NRW has been consistently aggressive and patronising to witnesses, the majority of whom represent community angling groups and all of whom have the best interests of fish and fishing in the forefront of their minds. We have been treated like criminals and belittled by the barrister. This has caused many of us significant distress.”

  • Those of us who have worked in partnership with both NRW in so many ways including collecting broodstock, planting out fry and parr, spraying invasive weeds, surveying feeder streams etc. feel that our efforts count for nothing. That threatens future cooperation.
  • Dr Guy Mawle, much quoted at the Inquiry by NRW’s Principal Fisheries Advisor as an experienced EA Fisheries Officer, hardly makes a convincing case for statutory legislation “The byelaws are therefore unlikely to achieve very much on their own to protect and improve the stock”.
  • When there has been constant rebuttal of our knowledge and evidence throughout the past 4 years it is difficult for many of us to see why it should suddenly be such a vital component of a “Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action”

We recognise that you have inherited a very difficult situation that has not been of your making. However we cannot move forward until our concerns have been addressed. Those represented by this letter have been at the forefront of salmon conservation within their own organisations and without their participation a worthwhile “Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action” is less likely to become a reality.

4 Catch & Release

5 Full-time equivalent

6 Environment Agency

For you to support a deferral of the byelaws whilst a voluntary solution, fully compliant with NASCO policy, is implemented for a 12 month period would send a very clear message to angling stakeholders and help unlock the current impasse.

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain and we look forward to your response.

We would of course welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in a face to face meeting in the near future.

Yours sincerely

John Eardley – Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Dr Robin Parry – Chair, Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group

Mervyn Williams – Chair, Dee Local Fisheries Advisory Group

On behalf of:

Bangor on Dee Salmon Angling Association

Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Capenhurst Angling Club

Chirk Syndicate

Clwyd Federation of Angling Clubs

Corwen and District Angling Club

Dee Fisheries Association

Dolgellau Angling Association

Dolwyddelan Angling Association

Llanbrynmair Angling Association

Llangollen Maelor Angling

Llyn Guides

New Dovey Fishery Association (1929) Ltd

Ogwen Valley Angling Association

Penrhyn Fishing Club

Prince Albert Angling Society

Rhagatt Estate

Rhyl & St. Asaph Angling Association

Rossett and Gresford Fly Fishers

Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Fishing Society

Vale of Clwyd Angling Club

Wirral Game Fishing Club

To Lesley Griffiths AM from John Eardley

27th September 2019

Lesley Griffiths AM

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Welsh Government

5th Floor Tŷ Hywel Cardiff Bay CF99 1NA

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

Copies to:

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford AM (First Minister of Wales) Clare Pillman (Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales)

Dear Minister,

We wish to make you aware of the serious concerns that were raised at a meeting of angling representatives from the Dee and Gwynedd Local Fisheries Groups held at the Owain Glyndwr Hotel, Corwen on Saturday 7th September. There were 19 Fishing Clubs/Organisations present at this meeting with a combined membership of several thousand anglers.

The meeting was called as a result of the anger and frustration that has arisen following your decision to confirm Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) proposed Wales Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) Byelaws 2017.

Those present at the Corwen Meeting are respected figures within both their own organisations and the angling community in North Wales and beyond, having extensive knowledge of their own rivers and an exemplary track record in working in partnership with both NRW and their predecessors, Environment Agency Wales. That such people are talking in terms of militant action and civil disobedience should be a great cause for concern.

At the close of the NRW Board Meeting on 18th January 2018 there was clear recognition by both the NRW executive and NRW board members that “we have failed to engage with stakeholders”. Unfortunately events at the Inquiry into the All Wales Byelaws during January and March of this year when Counsel for NRW saw fit to attempt to discredit ordinary decent people who sought only to protect their own fisheries from NRW’s actions has plunged that already fractured relationship to new depths. The end result is that there are a number of angling clubs who will no longer engage in any future meetings with NRW whilst their concerns are treated in such a dismissive way and that in turn poses a real threat to the development of a “Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action” that you have asked NRW to take the lead on.

A number of the angling clubs present at the Corwen meeting reported that they will no longer instruct their bailiffs to check that their members have purchased a rod licence and will only enforce their own clubs’ rules. Further concerns related to the decline in the number of both local and visiting anglers despite the encouraging

numbers of both salmon and sea trout that have been observed in some of our rivers this year despite the statistical predictions made by NRW. This will have repercussions on the ability of smaller community based clubs to afford to rent waters in the future and be a threat to their very existence. The presence of anglers on the riverbank also acts as both a deterrent to poachers and a source of intelligence for NRW’s Enforcement Officers and it is therefore unsurprising that increasing illegal activity has been a major concern for us during the year.

The alienation of those very stakeholders whose knowledge of their own rivers is so necessary for their recovery is a great cause for concern for those of us who are actively involved with both Rivers Trusts in North Wales. NRW may recognise that “we have able partners in the rivers trusts and need to maintain a productive relationship with them” but is making it ever more difficult for those organisations to recruit volunteers.

However our greatest concerns are reserved for these 3 key issues:

1.               Confirmation of the The Cross-Border Rivers Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (Wales) Byelaws 2019 would be a clear contravention of NASCO1 policy.

Full supporting evidence is listed in Appendix 1 on P4

2.               The confirmation of the All Wales Byelaws for introduction on 1st January 2020 for all rivers in Wales which have a mean catch of less than 20 salmon is a clear contravention of NASCO policy

Full supporting evidence is listed in Appendix 2 on P5

3.               We make a formal request that the introduction of the All Wales Byelaws is deferred until such time as voluntary C&R has been promoted for 1 year as set out in the NASCO Decision Making Structure.

Full supporting evidence is listed in Appendix 3 on Ps 6&7

The witness presenting key evidence at the Inquiry re NASCO Policy on behalf of CPWF2 was repeatedly interrupted by both Counsel for NRW and the Inspector himself which may go some way towards explaining the failure by the Inspector to recognise that the NRW proposals were breaching their own national and NASCO International Decision Structure Policy in England & Wales

The result is that following the Inspector’s decision and, in spite of having both common NASCO Policy and shared Stock Assessment Methodology, we now have two opposing conservation strategies with England adopting NASCO and shared E & W policy with Voluntary measures being applied to PaR3 rivers while in Wales the Byelaws propose Mandatory measures for all rivers.

Whilst we appreciate that Brexit may be a far more pressing issue for you at the moment, the issues surrounding the Byelaws have been a major concern for us since July 2015 and are posing a significant threat to our fisheries, the survival of community based angling clubs and angling tourism in rural areas. To that end a “no deal” outcome for angling must be avoided at all costs, particularly when there is no evidence that the Byelaws will do anything to increase the numbers of salmon and sea trout returning to our rivers.

Our track record of partnership and co-operation makes us fully deserving of the chance of a voluntary solution. Irrespective of that, the promotion of Voluntary C&R is a key part of compliance with NASCO Policy and cannot be dismissed.

1 North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation

2 Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

3 Probably at Risk

This has not happened up to now and therefore should be widely publicised to all anglers and clubs for the 2020 season, with the target 90% release rate made absolutely clear and the warning that “If this fails to significantly improve C&R rates, mandatory C&R or closure of the fishery will be considered”.

This should be the starting point for the “Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action” in 2020 and would play a key role in encouraging key stakeholders to participate in its development.

We cannot stress strongly enough that we have always endeavoured to work with NRW and really do want that to continue. However for that to happen bridges must be built and most significantly the 3 key issues identified on Page 2 must be addressed.

We would of course welcome the opportunity to discuss the contents of our letter with you in a face to face meeting but in the meantime await your response with interest.

Yours sincerely

John Eardley – Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Dr Robin Parry – Chair, Gwynedd Local Fisheries Advisory Group

Mervyn Williams – Chair, Dee Local Fisheries Advisory Group

On behalf of:

Bangor on Dee Salmon Angling Association

Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

Capenhurst Angling Club

Chirk Syndicate

Clwyd Federation of Angling Clubs

Corwen and District Angling Club

Dee Fisheries Association

Dolgellau Angling Association

Dolwyddelan Angling Association

Llanbrynmair Angling Association

Llangollen Maelor Angling

Llyn Guides

New Dovey Fishery Association (1929) Ltd

Ogwen Valley Angling Association

Penrhyn Fishing Club

Prince Albert Angling Society Rhagatt Estate

Rhyl & St. Asaph Angling Association

Rossett and Gresford Fly Fishers

Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Fishing Society

Vale of Clwyd Angling Club

Wirral Game Fishing Club

Appendix 1

Confirmation of the The Cross-Border Rivers Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (Wales) Byelaws 2019 would be a clear contravention of NASCO policy

  1. NRW have indicated at their Board meeting held on 19th September that they will shortly be making an application to you for confirmation of new rod fishing byelaws for the rivers Dee and Wye. Confirmation of those byelaws would breach NASCO Conservation Policy.
  1. Wales, along with other countries as signatures to NASCO Conservation Policy, adopted this in Regulatory undertakings as common and shared Wales & England Atlantic salmon management policy. This is defined in the 2018 Assessment of Salmon Stocks & Fisheries in England & Wales (Background Report) Annexe 7 – Salmon Management Procedures in England & Wales, Page 77 & 78 – Decision Structure in E & W.
  2. The decision making structure set out in the report is very clear:

3. Third stage – option evaluation (purple boxes)

The purpose of this stage is to set out and evaluate options to realise the required changes in exploitation.

For rivers where 50%≤p<95% (where p= probability of failing the management objective) and the trend is down and with an annual catch of >20 salmon and C&R4 rate < 90%, then voluntary C&R will promoted for 1 year. If this fails to significantly improve C&R rates, mandatory C&R or closure of the fishery will be considered. Protected rivers such as SACs (Special Areas of Conservation) are given particular emphasis”

  1. This is recognised in NRW Board Paper B B 40.15 Annex 2, TECHNICAL REPORT: MANAGEMENT OPTIONS TO ADDRESS THE DECLINE IN STOCKS OF SALMON AND SOME SEA TROUT IN WALES which states quite correctly that:

The decision structure is currently not applied to:-

  • rivers where the voluntary C&R rate is greater than 90%, as it has been felt that the extra benefit on any individual river does not warrant the costs of pursuing statutory control.
  • The 5 year forward predicted Compliance for the Dee has improved in 2018. Whereas in 2017 it was predicted to be AR5 in 2022 it is now predicted to be PaR in 2013. The stock assessment has changed and therefore Voluntary 90% C & R is the correct application of the NASCO decision structure
  • NRW’s 2017 “Know your river document” for the Dee makes the following statement:

“The release rate in 2017 was 91%. This is an excellent result and needs to be maintained”

Put simply the River Dee is fully compliant with NASCO policy and according to NRW’s own documentation “does not warrant the costs of pursuing statutory control”.

On that basis the introduction of statutory legislation for the Dee would be a clear breach of NASCO policy and something that we would contest most strongly. We would also have the support of our English colleagues who will mount a similar challenge to the EA given that NRW states that “It has previously been agreed with the EA that they will make a simultaneous matching application to DEFRA for confirmation of complementary byelaws in the English parts of these two cross-border rivers”.

We therefore make a formal request that you do not confirm any application by NRW for new byelaws for the Dee.

4 Catch & Release

5 At Risk

Appendix 2

The confirmation of the All Wales Byelaws for introduction on 1st January 2020 for all rivers in Wales which have a mean catch of less than 20 salmon is a clear contravention of NASCO policy

In addition to that aspect of the decision structure described Appendix 1 iii on Page 4, the 3rd stage of the decision structure also states:

“For rivers where the above criteria apply, except that the annual mean salmon catch is <20 salmon, voluntary measures will be promoted.”

In North Wales that would include not only smaller rivers such as the Afon Aber, Gwyrfai, Llyfni, Artro etc but also at least one of the principal salmon rivers, the Afon Dysynni.

NRW’s 2017 “Know your river document” for the Dysynni makes the following statement:

“….the river is predominantly a sea trout river. The release rate in 2017 was 100% which is an excellent result and needs to continue”.

It is quite clear that to apply the All Wales Byelaws to any river in Wales which has a mean catch of less than 20 salmon would be an obvious breach of NASCO policy.

We therefore make a formal request that all rivers in Wales with a mean catch of less than 20 salmon are excluded from the All Wales Byelaws.

Appendix 3

We make a formal request that the introduction of the All Wales Byelaws is deferred until such time as voluntary C&R has been promoted for 1 year as set out in the NASCO Decision Making Structure.

We make our request on the following grounds:

  1. The NASCO Decision making structure, previously referred to in Appendix 1 iii on Page 4, states quite clearly that for both PaR and AR rivers (all principal salmon river in Wales with the exception of the River Usk) that “voluntary C&R will be promoted for 1 year”.

However on page 93 of the Technical Case Structure, the document which underpins the byelaws, NRW conjures up its own version and states that “The combined kill of salmon by both the net and rod fisheries should therefore cease in order to help to improve the status of the stock in the short term”.

The full transcript of both statements is contained in Annex 1 on Page 7.

  1. We note in your Written Statement on the Outcome of the Local Inquiry that you say that “there is common ground between NRW and objectors that salmon and sea trout stocks in Wales are suffering an ongoing decline”

We must make you aware that the picture across Wales is not one of universal decline. 8 of the Principal Salmon Rivers in Wales, show a year on year improvement in the 3 years 2015 – 2017. 4 of those rivers, have exceeded their Conservation Limit in each of the last 3 years with 3 rivers achieving more than 200% of their CL in 2017. Furthermore the most recent juvenile surveys in North Wales were most encouraging with one rivers results being described by NRW as “the best on record!”

  1. NRW’s own “Know Your River” documents clearly show that there has never been any active promotion of Voluntary C&R as set out in the NASCO Decision Making Structure. Rather than “a release rate of 90% is necessary in order to avoid the introduction of Mandatory C&R” we find instead comments such as “This is excellent and is the best on record”, “This is an excellent improvement” and “This is an excellent result and needs to be maintained”.

All of the comments concerning voluntary release rates can be viewed and verified via the following link: NRW Know your rivers – salmon and sea trout catchment summaries.

  1. 2.1 Decision Structure on Page 10 of the 2018 Assessment of Salmon Stocks & Fisheries in England & Wales contains the following information:

“A review is underway to re-examine the current methodology for assessing salmon stocks, along with the associated compliance scheme and decision structure; this will consider the need for possible improvements. The aim is to complete this within the next three years with the likelihood that improvements will be introduced in stages as developments allow.”

It makes no sense to introduce Byelaws when there is so much uncertainty surrounding the current methodology.

  • 90 – 95% of the salmon that enter Welsh rivers are not caught by anglers. Given that anglers currently return 86% of that relatively small %age of salmon that they do catch, it makes no sense whatsoever to drive them away. The lay person is unlikely to comprehend just how much time anglers spend on our rivers, day and night, throughout the year, not only fishing but carrying out essential bank maintenance work, checking on spawning activity or often simply enjoying a walk. Their very presence over the years has protected fish stocks with virtually all reports to NRW of poaching, sewage discharge, agricultural pollution and their resulting fish kills coming from anglers. The limited enforcement activity of NRW can never replace the protective effect of local anglers on their own rivers and to alienate those people, and threaten the very existence of the community

angling clubs to which they belong, poses a direct threat to our fish stocks and is short sighted in the extreme.

  • Deferment would help stem the decline in membership that smaller community based angling clubs are currently experiencing. Without their survival the heritage of angling being passed from father to son will be lost for ever.
  • It is education, co-operation, empowerment and partnership which has seen Voluntary Return Rates rise year on year to an all-time high of 86% across Wales. Failure to recognise that alienates those very stakeholders whose knowledge of their own rivers is so necessary for their recovery.
  • It would send a very clear message to our members that we are being listened to and our concerns are being addressed. In so doing there would be far greater willingness on the part of our members to participate in the development of a “Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action”.
  1. If any river fails to achieve a 90% Voluntary C&R rate then, in accordance with the NASCO decision making structure, legislation remains as a backstop. However this must be on a river by river basis and not include any river which has a mean catch of less than 20 salmon

We therefore make a formal request that the introduction of the All Wales Byelaws is deferred until such time as voluntary C&R has been promoted for 1 year as set out in the NASCO Decision Making Structure.

……………………………………….

Annex 1

CNL(14)71

NASCO Implementation Plan for the period 2013-18 EU – UK (England and Wales)

P 26 3. Third stage – option evaluation (purple boxes)

The purpose of this stage is to set out and evaluate options to realise the required changes in exploitation.

For rivers where 50%≤p<95% (where p= probability of failing the management objective) and the trend is down and with an annual catch of >20 salmon and C&R rate < 90%, then voluntary C&R will promoted for 1 year. If this fails to significantly improve C&R rates, mandatory C&R or closure of the fishery will be considered. Protected rivers such as SACs (Special Areas of Conservation) are given particular emphasis

For rivers where the above criteria apply, except that the annual mean salmon catch is <20 salmon, voluntary measures will be promoted

NRW Technical Case Structure Final P93 6.7 Options for salmon

As identified in Section 5, the salmon stocks across Wales (with the exception of the R. Usk) are classified as either “At risk” or “Probably at Risk” of failing to meet the management objective, based on the 2016 stock assessment, and are also predicted to remain in that category in five years-time.

As such, our Decision Structure guides us to “Identify a range of options to ensure sufficient spawning escapement to move to <50% probability of failure (of meeting the management objective) within five years (Probably not at risk category) while looking to maintain socio-economic benefits where possible.”

The combined kill of salmon by both the net and rod fisheries should therefore cease in order to help to improve the status of the stock in the short term.

Latest letter from the Minister.

Lesley Griffiths AC/AM

Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

Ein cyf/Our ref LG/06787/19

Llywod raeth Cymru Welsh Government

Chris White Conservation Officer

Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries

chriswhite.cohite@gmail.com

      C/vVJ
1( September 2019

Thank you for your further letter of 23 August, regarding my response to your appeal letter in light of my decision to confirm the Wales Rod and line (Salmon and Sea Trout) Byelaws.

As part of the local inquiry I provided all parties with the opportunity to present evidence to an independent inspector in accordance with clearly outlined regulations. To ensure there was no bias, I declined all invitations to meet and hear independent representations from anyone prior to or after the inquiry.

Having reflected carefully on all the evidence and arguments put forward, the Planning Inspector considered the proposed Byelaws to be a measured response to· decliningfish stocks in Wales. Accordingly, he found them to be necessary, proportionate and reasonable in view of the decline of salmon and sea trout stocks in Wales and his recommendation was to confirm the Byelaws.

After consideration of the report and recent stock assessments I published my decision in a written statement on 16 July 2019 to confirm the Byelaws which will come into force from 1 January 2020. As you are aware, I am now looking for all parties to come together and concentrate their efforts on positive actions to help safeguard stocks as part of a Plan of Action for Salmon and Sea Trout.

I have asked Natural Resources Wales to lead on this Plan of Action, however, to maximise the chances of our salmon of sea trout stocks recovering all parties, including the Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries, will need to engage and contribute. I hope you will take this opportunity to contribute your views about how any threats to salmon and sea trout from issues such as water sports or any other issue can be managed to improve the status of these important fish stocks.

My advice to you regarding litigation was to highlight this option is available to you.

NRW have managed to change "partnership working" to "partnership alienation" A new low.

The following is a copy of an email sent to Joel Rees Jones in response to NRW’s request for angling representatives to work in partnership with NRW in compiling their “Salmon Action Plan”. It speaks for itself. My only comment is that it’s a shame that Joel is the recipient as he is surely “one of the good guys” I hope the management are copied in to this email: and the rest in a similar tone.

My thanks to John Eardley for allowing me to publish his email. John has dedicated himself to working with NRW as well as on and in his rivers for years. Latterly he has been in teh forefront of those challenging the imposition of compulsory catch and release and other bye-law changes. Thank you John.

Good afternoon Joel,

It is with deep regret and sadness that at this point in time I am unwilling to participate in this initiative. You are of course well aware that ever since I joined the Gwynedd LFG back in 2010 I have only ever missed one meeting and at all times have endeavoured to work in a meaningful partnership with both NRW and their predecessors, EAW. Like many of my colleagues copied into this email I have collected broodstock, planted out fry/parr, sprayed invasives, surveyed feeder streams etc. etc. I did this in the belief that by working together we could achieve so much more and saw education, cooperation and empowerment as key drivers for both the future of our waterways and the fisheries which they support. I realise now that those values count for nothing with those who are in charge of fisheries policy at NRW and for me personally that has been very hard to come to terms with. Furthermore, when our knowledge of our own rivers is dismissed by the Principal Fisheries Advisor at the Inquiry as “knowing the stiles and footpaths” in order to gain access, it would seem that there is very little of  meaningful substance that I could contribute anyway.

I have enjoyed, and valued, working with many NRW staff and they will know and recognise that. However those that know me well will know that I am a man of principle and that this is a decision that I will not have taken lightly.

In the extremely unlikely event that there should be a major change of policy in the near future in how NRW seek to engage with angling stakeholders then you know that I would be a more than willing participant.

Kind regards

John

From North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council

North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council

part of the Angling Trust and AT North West Freshwater Forum
14h September 2019 NWATFCC & CPWF recommendations to drafting of NASCO 2019 – 24 Implementation Plans
re: Improvements to Conservation targets, Stock reporting, Methodology and Decision process

Purpose; A short discussion paper to identify and highlight the scope of improvements to proposing a Quality Assured, open to view system and opportunity to harmonise mainland UK conservation principles and strategy

Validation – Independent validation of existing or new system procedures is required with periodic review to provide quality assurance.
Reason – the present system of river classification and decision structure process first introduced in 2004 (and updates) is not validated or subject to periodic review. The present systems frame recently introduced Regulatory measures and are both open to and currently being challenged.
In implementing National England & Wales Salmon Byelaws, the EA & NRW share common regulatory undertakings framed by NASCO approved salmon conservation objectives, reporting methodology and decision process, yet have introduced quite separate national conservation strategies in relation to fisheries management of stocks. Specifically C & R measures and method restrictions.

Reaching a single Biological Reference Point interpretation of a Rivers spawning target (Conservation Limit, Management Target etc)
Reason – a single BRP will provide clearer focus to meeting and achieving conservation objectives. Conservation Limit and higher river specific Management Target is frequently misquoted and misunderstood in relation to river Management Objectives and incorrectly associated in generic terms with reporting “management targets”.
Scotland and Ireland have undergone this process, defining MSY (Minimum Sustainable Yield) as the single spawning CL biological reference point.

Review and revision of individual River CL`s
Reason – in both the stock recruitment curve (SRC – egg to smolt) and replacement line (RL – marine, post smolt to returning adult) phase, assumptions in setting and defining CL are being questioned as regards the need for updating Salmon Action Plan estimates and targets. The accuracy of RL & SRC model principles and predictions in times of significant trend change has to reassessed, as with decisions made in 2004 to reduce national River CL to lowering marine survival estimates that have significantly worsened since that time. The mechanism of estimating actual individual CL from total wetted area and density (eggs /100m2) has to somehow balance and take a account of waterbodies that are not and unlikely to meeting WQ standards, suffer from degraded spawning/nursery habitat and significant un-quantified predation losses.

Redefining and simplifying Management Objectives and River Status methodology
Reason – set out below are the fundamental weaknesses and flaws with the current River classification methodology – use of the Linear Regression trend and five year forward prediction of probability of meeting Management objectives.

1. What is a rivers Management Objective and is it statistical precise ? Originally defined as a River that meets or exceeds its CL in 4 years out of 5 on average or 80% of the time. Found to be statistically imprecise and has recently been amended in the published 2018 Stocks Assessment Report to exceeding CL in 4 years out of 5 or 80% of the time. The question that is asked is whether the regressed Linear trend actually expresses MO ?
The alternate model being proposed is that a rivers MO exceeds CL on average in the last 5 historic years. This is statistically precise and provides the best mean actual 5 year trend data to an exact % CL attainment. Appropriate river classification management decisions and C & R measures can then be framed around precise real time trend performance.

2. Applying Variable corrections to spawning stock and River egg deposition estimates. Seven variables are applied to the majority of rivers reliant on rod catch returns to quantify final female 1SW/MSW component numbers and their weight/egg bearing capacity to estimate a Rivers total spawning egg deposition to CL. The original 2004 methodology and subsequent annual Assessment reports clearly state the accuracy of egg deposition estimates and predictive trend forecasting required incorporation of revising seasonal variations of rod exploitation on individual rivers, as one of seven variables. In relation to annual reviewing of rod exploitation rate variables, these are specifically rod effort, river flow conditions and run timing/out of season proportions of the run. Rod exploitation rate estimates have not been reviewed and revised nationally in a time series 1994 – 2018 when Salmon Action Plans and CL were originally framed around 2000. Rod effort regionally and nationally has dropped alarmingly to 27 – 35% of 1994 estimate. The Appendix Tables 6, 8 & 21 indicate that reduced rod effort is the major and principle cause of declining rod catch and CL attainment performance. River flows are threatened by abstraction pressures and extreme rainfall events and extended periods of rainfall shortage. These in turn shorten the window of angler participation and perceived favourable salmon running and take conditions. A quality assured system has to place periodic reviews at the heart of its system procedures and with it the accuracy of species rod effort, catch reporting, weight scale determination of components and fecundity. We recommend a single reporting statement of key River variables along similar lines to the Table.22 Information request to NRW of their annual review and revising policy for assessing stocks.

3. What is the 20 percentile of the linear regression trend and is it expressing a Rivers MO ? Hugely complex area of Bayesian analysis of time series trend distribution which few fisheries managers can interpret or explain. In my simple terms the Linear regression trend line is depicting a rivers 10 year historic performance where 80% of a Rivers annual attainment in its moving 10 year timeframe is above its 20th percentile trend line. Concern being that the trend line is not statistically expressing MO (its median or midpoint value in its best 80% years attainment), but as we know a much reduced precautionary trend based on higher management target. The proposed alternate model – 5 year MAT of % CL (Table 24 Option 2 with current model comparisons) simplifies and precisely maps actual river attainment.
4. Should we continue to use current methodology where “predicted” trend forecasts map a 15 year Linear (straight-line) projections ? No, River trends are not linear and if we make that assumption there is a high risk that predictions will fail. Salmon River performance map cycles of abundance, with good years followed by low or lower abundance. Fig. 6, 7 & 8 illustrate how 15 year linear predictions fail with rivers that exhibit longer and stronger salmon cycles. The NW river graphs for the Eden, Ribble & Lune illustrate these trough predictions in comparison with the River Wye in that same timeframe with over optimistic predictions of improving stocks. Rivers with good CL attainment performance over 10 historic years do not become extinct in a short 5 year forward projection window as predicted in several NW Rivers over the years 2014, 2015 & 2016. The use of the proposed 5 year historic average or mean CL River attainment makes no forward prediction of stock performance, relying on most recent real time data.
The model produces the necessary dampening effect in strong cycles and assurance required in decision making to account for seasonal variations that in some years can be significant.

5. Comparisons of predictive to actual recorded status in 5 years time forecasts have been poor. Table. 23 is an analysis of the accuracy of EA & NRW five year forward predictive stock status forecast for the current 64 English & Welsh monitored Rivers in the 2008 – 2017 timeframe, illustrating low accuracy on which regulatory stock management decisions are made

6. Use of log transformed and non log assessment charts – in recent years Log transformed charts have superseded actual scale log assessment charts. The visual scale of actual trend prediction and a Rivers annual CL attainment has been lost in this process. Log scale assessments are clearly masking Linear regression trends that for some Rivers cause unrealistic and extreme predictive stock forecasts. See Fig. 6, 7 & 8 again.
7. Do the four risk status groups and specifically PaR & PNaR status that form the 90% range of probability that a river will meet its MO in 5 years time, provide a good interpretation of a Rivers performance? Rivers that can report an exact % estimate of actual historic 5 year MAT attainment as proposed, will provide clearer and more accurate interpretation of actual trend performance with greater clarity in national/regional trend reporting. Precise Rivers stock assessment classifications bands (e.g. 10% bands) can then more clearly define decision making step procedures. An example of this model classification option with applied Decision process – C & R measures is set out in Table. 24 The Option 2 model was produced in February 2018. In essence, similar to the “Scottish style” grading approach with classification assessments that can be reviewed annually, based on 5 year MAT % CL river performance and visible and easily interpreted by fisheries managers and anglers.
The Option 2 model example guidelines for the 64 English & Wales monitored Rivers are set out below and framed on current CL target values and applied variables and SAP estimates.
Rivers exceeding 5 year MAT of CL target (> 100%) – required to meet 80% C & R target

“ 80 to 100% 5 year MAT of CL target (80 >100%) “ “ “ 90% C & R target

“ below 80% 5 year MAT of CL target (< 80%) “ “ “ 100% Mandatory C & R

Resetting the Decision Structure Process framework – using clear precise river classification status & C & R measures strategies
For England and Wales the Decision Structure Process can be reset in the decision flow chart to a Rivers MAT % CL attainment, whilst maintaining and reviewing the CL principles & targets and applied variables. Annual review of river performance to CL attainment will flow visibly from simplified annual assessments and the focus and effort can shift to ensuring River data (rod catch, rod effort/river conditions/rod exploitation rates, weight, fecundity etc) are clean and accurate.
In tandem that Index River counter/trap datasets are providing outputs that are reviewed and revised to linked reference Rivers and SAP`s.
The Scottish grading system underwent a consultation process that generated a 5 year MAT CL equivalent model, on clear lines with yearly review of river Status and applied measures. The Scottish model accounts for seasonal factors – river flow, out of season runs etc and the Consultation enabled a review and major revision of wetted area River estimates, with MSY defining River CL targets.

Conclusion
These proposals and model suggestion allows UK jurisdictions to maintain existing CL setting and annual attainment to CL and then build in appropriate break points for setting probability or risk of meeting a precise MO as the Rivers actual 5 year MAT performance. Annual revision of status will flow from this and necessary revision of seasonal factors and variable corrections.
The new methodology procedures would remove the Linear Regression trend and 5 year forward predictive forecasting that is widely criticised.
Focus can then concentrate on ensuring rod catch, counter/trap, variable and seasonal data is clean and accurate.
An opportunity might then be realised to harmonise mainland conservation strategies and systems with obvious potential operational and reporting benefits. Mike Ashwin. redfa/nwatfcc 14.09.19

To Chairman of NRW Board

Mr Reuben Woodford
Ffrancon House
Tyn-y-Maes
Nant Ffrancon
Bangor
Gwynedd. LL57 3LX
reubenwoodford@gmail.com

17th September 2019

Sir David Henshaw (NRW Board – Interim Chair)
NRW Board Members

Via email: nrwboardsecretariat@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Re: Implementation of ‘All Wales Byelaws’ – Discordant with NASCO Guidelines

Dear Sir David and Board Members,
We are aware that at the forthcoming NRW Board meeting on September 19th, the Board will be asked to approve or note implementation of the ‘All Wales Byelaws’ (Fisheries). The exact undertaking placed upon the Board seems unclear.
There is no evidence the byelaw measures would have any effect on reversing the decline in migratory fish stocks. There is clear evidence, the measures are discordant with the NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Organisation) guidance stipulations on a catchment by catchment basis across Wales. There are rivers across Wales where under this guidance mandatory measures, categorically, should not be applied and yet this is NRW’s intention – it is critical the Board consider this position.
The use of a broad brush-stroke and expedient application of a ‘precautionary approach’ as opposed to a defined ‘precautionary principle’, one which is underlined by robust protocols has, resulted in senior NRW Fisheries officers effecting their preference upon all rivers in Wales in a blanket application of prohibition. This move poses a direct risk to the future of angling clubs and the stock assessment and river classification system i.e. the evidence based system underpinning policy.
At the Public Inquiry (2018/19), the Inspector sought NRW’s re-assurance that ‘The Byelaws’ were enforceable. No such re-assurance has been given. Since the Public Inquiry, NRW has announced it is cutting the number of specialised fisheries enforcement officers across the country. During ‘The Byelaw’ development process we spoke to enforcement officers and neither had they been consulted upon, nor did they view the ‘the byelaws’ as enforceable. NRW have cited the ‘deterrent effect’ as the primary function of the measures and yet 83% of respondents to ‘The Byelaws’ consultation opposed the measures and since then objectors have identified in detail the risk the ‘The Byelaws’ pose; to angling, angling clubs, the stock assessment process and the viability of preventing poaching activity.
It is clear, that rather than underpinning the way forwards, the byelaws would undermine our collective ability to manage fisheries. Furthermore, the Environment Agency in England have stipulated that method restrictions cannot be set out legally. It is also evident that were method restrictions to be imposed upon anglers, compensation could be sought – cited within the Water Resources Act 1991.
Improving the validity of evidence and strengthening the way NRW work with the angling community as partners should be a priority and yet it has become a forced add-on in the wake of the cabinet secretary’s decision. The stark contrast with which our views and co-operation now seem eagerly sought in comparison with the blanket rejection of our evidence at the Public Inquiry shows total disregard for the angling community’s long standing role and our sincere commitment to establish a workable way forward. Implementation of ‘The Byelaws’ is now being seen as a block to future partnership working for representatives of angling clubs who now call time on NRW’s dictatorial approach.
At the NRW Board Meeting on the 18th January 2018 in Bangor, non-executive members of the Board highlighted the rift between NRW’s stance and that of the angling community. Those concerns were effectively rejected by the chairperson Diane McCrae, with little consideration of consequence. That decision was made conditionally with Board Members, who sought reassurance from the Chair that the relationship between NRW and partners would be healed – that condition was and has not been honoured and instead of working with the angling community, NRW’s chief Fisheries Officers have since further alienated us in an act of obtuse provocation marked by the Public Inquiry.
Board members in 2018 also sought re-assurance from the Chair that a wider strategy should be initiated without delay – as the angling community have highlighted, banning of angling activities has been NRW’s primary focus all along and to the detriment of actions to tackle the actual causative factors placing risk upon salmon fish stocks in particular. At the Public Inquiry Dr Maule provided a cautionary note to remind NRW that supplementary measures such as the byelaws could only be effective if the causative factors of stock decline were treated in a timely manner at catchment scale. Little re-assurance was given by the head of NRW Fisheries at the Public Inquiry in relation to achieving wide scale catchment actions to manage the risks to Salmon due to limited resource.
There are numerous reasons why the ‘All Wales Byelaws’ can be shown as being a disproportionate response, however their temporal impropriety is the most destructive and disproportionate element of them.
There is very little recognition by senior Fisheries staff, that what angling clubs have already achieved is significant and progressive. Anglers across Wales currently return 86% of their catch. What anglers catch represents 5-10% of the salmon in Wales rivers. The angling community are not the problem, however, with ‘The All Wales Byelaws’ implemented, we would be disabled from being a meaningful part of the solution when all along we have illustrated our willingness and ability to do so.
At the public Inquiry, NRWs legal counsel spent an exhaustive period, dumbing down pivotal evidence until there was no hope of objectors putting it and the disproportionality of the byelaws in full context. The cost of the Inquiry, £350,827.48 plus VAT, bought the taxpayer – an affront on volunteers; volunteers that have worked in partnership with environmental regulators for decades.
The All Wales Byelaws have been sold to the Cabinet Secretary and the NRW Board on the basis of incomplete evidence and an inference of acceptability that is untrue. The inequalities of the overall process has denied the angling community a voice; the angling community’s evidence appropriate exposure and denied the Cabinet Secretary the ability to gauge the consequence of implementing the byelaws within a regulatory environment already fraught with uncertainty.
As they stand, the ‘All Wales Byelaws’ will not deliver progress. Prioritising a mechanism with no proven benefit nor assessment of risk (NRW have done neither) over actions to tackle the causative factors influencing fish stock decline, is a failure of NRW’s statutory duties and simply relying on blind faith.
Implementation of the ‘All Wales Byelaws’ now, is an action discordant with NASCO guidelines.
We are now seeking deferment of the all Wales Byelaws until such a time as voluntary Catch & Release has been formally promoted for 1 year in accordance with NASCO Guidelines.
The Board should be made aware that a review is already underway to re-examine the current methodology for assessing salmon stocks, along with the associated compliance scheme and decision structure used in England and Wales. As a consequence of this review improvements are likely to be recommended. The angling community in Wales are seeking phasing and interim arrangements are considered and incorporated in the Welsh Byelaws until such reviews are completed and the accuracy of current and historic salmon stock assessments are assured.
A phased approach could provide the critical transitionary state to turn this situation around – without it, it is the fear of many that key representatives from the angling community will, disillusioned by NRW’s dictatorial and myopic stance leave the arena for good. We must not allow this to happen as the future of fisheries, fish stocks and community fishing clubs in Wales are at stake.
Yours Sincerely,

Reuben Woodford
On Behalf of: Afon Ogwen Anglers in association with CPWF
Petitioners – petition presented to the Welsh Assembly ‘Give Welsh Fishing Clubs & Salmon & Sea-trout a chance’, on behalf of 1719 signatories