Last edit 11th February 2021

John Eardley 9th February 2021

Chris Bainger – Fisheries Technical Specialist – West Midlands

By email to chris.bainger@environment-agency.gov.uk

Copies to:

Jamie Cook – CEO Angling Trust

Mark Owen – Head of Freshwater Angling Trust

Dear Mr Bainger,

I have recently been informed by colleagues that a consultation into proposed new byelaws for the River Severn is imminent, although as angling stakeholders in Wales we have yet to receive any formal notification. Could you please confirm that this is indeed the case and if so when will we be formally notified of what is contained within the proposals? Can I also request that in the interests of a level playing field we are given notice well in advance of the consultation start date and not simply notified at the time of its start date as that would immediately set us on the back foot and could be perceived as giving the impression of bias.

Angling stakeholders have justifiable concerns that although the EA will have the lead on this cross-border consultation, there will be considerable pressure from NRW to implement byelaws that are closely aligned with what is already in place in the rest of Wales. The timing of the Severn Emergency Byelaw, a mere 2 days in advance of when it would have still been legal for an angler to take a salmon on a Welsh river, together with significant corrections to underestimated 2015-18 stock estimates, does nothing to allay our concerns.

Whilst I have no wish to prejudge the Severn Consultation, I have been heavily involved in 2 consultations involving NRW, firstly the closure of hatcheries and ending of third party stocking and latterly the All Wales Byelaws, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone in Wales who would regard either of these as anything other than “tick box exercises”, i.e. consultations in name only. The Oxford Dictionary defines a consultation as “the act of discussing something with someone or with a group of people before making a decision about it”. What reassurance can you provide to angling stakeholders, many of whom have led the conservation agenda within their own organisations, that their input will be valued and form part of proposals that are fit for purpose in securing the future of the River Severn salmon?

There is an opportunity here to, at the very least, trial a voluntary solution, in accordance with NASCO policy, which would have the backing of both the Angling Trust and angling organisations along the river and which would avoid the disastrous situation which now exists in Wales. Anyone who has the best interests of the River Severn at heart will recognise that we all need to work together and that cannot be achieved if a confrontational approach is pursued. Sadly experiences in Wales highlights that failure to do that will be disastrous, not only for future relationships between angling stakeholders and the EA, but most importantly for the future of the Severn Salmon.

Yours sincerely

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

John Eardley's reply to Ruth Jenkins


Strategy Officer
John Eardley
Ty Newydd
4, Little Moss Lane
Scholar Green
ST7 3BL
Email: johneardley@btinternet.com

CPWF has the support of freshwater and sea anglers in Wales.
Visit our website at www.cpwf.co.uk

5th February 2021
Ruth Jenkins – Head of Natural Resource Management Policy, Natural Resources Wales
By email to Ruth.Jenkins@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Dear Ruth,
Thank you for your letter Ref: CX21-007 (RJ) dated 26th January regarding the Prof. Ian G. Cowx report on the “Review of Evidence of Interactions between Beavers and Fish and Fisheries in England and Wales” and its relevance to:
 Application for the release of up to 6 beavers to be held in an enclosure at Cors Dyfi
Nature reserve (S086266)
 Application for a 5-year pilot to release beavers into the wild on the Dyfi (S087504).

Angling stakeholders continue to have grave concerns about the initial application (S086266) to release beavers into the enclosure at Cors Dyfi. Whilst you are correct to point bout that there is unlikely to be any impact on fish migration within the reserve itself, the problems will occur when, not if, some of the beavers escape and move elsewhere within the catchment. The very nature of the immediate surrounding area, “reed beds, bog and wet woodland scrub”, makes recapture nigh on impossible no matter how impressive the “updated and standalone escape, recapture and fence maintenance plan” may appear on paper. Furthermore this environment is subject to extreme conditions when low pressure
storm surges, spring tides and high rivers levels coincide to provide the perfect conditions to pile dead reed stems and other flood debris against the enclosure and in the process create a ready-made escape ramp. The most recent floods would have provided the perfect conditions for most of the beavers in the enclosure to escape. On that basis alone it is hard to regard
escape from the enclosure as an “unlikely event”. We also find it difficult to understand why “NRW are lawfully required to issue the licence” and cannot simply refuse at this stage, particularly when 35 farmers and landowners in the Dyfi Valley have signed a petition stating quite categorically that they do not want beavers on their property. There is no shortage of evidence from both Scotland and Europe that beaver dams block drainage ditches resulting in flooded fields as well as crops being
targeted as a food supply and farmers are right to be concerned. It is highly likely that compensation would be sought from those responsible for permitting the introduction of beavers in the first place.
What also concerns us is that the beavers destined for the enclosure are the offspring of illegal introductions into the River Tay system, so called “beaver bombing”. That in itself seems to send a clear message to those intent on further illegal introductions that they are unlikely to be held to account for breaking the law, something that is all the more ironic to
law abiding anglers who have witnessed third party stocking of salmonids outlawed in Wales on the spurious grounds of genetic integrity.
The application for a 5-year pilot to release beavers into the wild on the Dyfi (S087504) is presumably to facilitate the release of beavers born within the Cors Dyfi compound into the main river system, in which case the compound could be perceived as little more than a beaver hatchery. It also seems strange that there is any need for a pilot study when NRW is fully aware of the beaver activity on the tidal Dyfi downstream of Machynlleth,
even to the extent of installing a surveillance camera in the area. Could you please let us know what NRW has learned so far from its monitoring of the beavers at this location and how this might influence future decisions?
Angling stakeholders have very real concerns about the long term impact of beavers on the salmonid population of the Afon Dyfi and sadly, yet again, find themselves on the wrong end of the NRW decision making process.

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

Fisheries bulletin

Clwyd Concwest easements

During 2020 two easements have been carried out on the Afon Concwest. These were carried out by the North Wales Rivers Trust, with funding from NRW. These easements have opened an additional 4km of spawning habitat to migratory fish.

The Concwest has suffered several pollution incidents during recent years and no juvenile salmonids have been recorded in the catchment since 2015. Following the work two large redds have already been seen above the historic barriers so this work will help to re- populate the Concwest with salmonids.

Prior to 2003 the upper Clywedog was not accessible to migratory fish due to the Bontuchel weir. The installation of the fish pass at Bontuchel, and easements on the Clywedog and Concwest, have opened the whole upper Clywedog catchment to migratory salmonids.

Conwy – Know Your River board updates

Information boards were placed on the Conwy catchment in 2010 to highlight possible impacts on spawning and redds from river users. These boards have recently been updated, still highlighting the possible impact from river users, but also giving the general public some interesting salmon and sea trout details, plus some local catchment specific facts.

Juvenile salmonid monitoring programme

2020 was a difficult year for us all, and NRW’s ability to carry out monitoring work was no exception. Due to problems with social distancing, it was decided that electro-fishing with generators would not go ahead, but the use of backpack gear could. However, trials in safety meant that the national programme wasn’t carried out, but parts of the Dee juvenile index monitoring could be completed.

Thirty-five of the Dee juvenile index monitoring program sites were completed. Salmon (and in most cases trout) juvenile stocks were much lower in 2020 than that seen in 2019, however the data could have been impacted by the surveys being carried out much later in the year than usual. We expect to have full coverage of North Wales in 2021, however the survey method is still questionable with current covid restrictions.

Conwy – Nant y Gwryd restoration

In September, together with our partners the National Trust, we began re-profiling the steep banks and re-positioning some large boulders in a previously modified section of the river.

We are already starting to see some changes, with the river shifting from a straight glide (like a canal) to developing sections of pools (deep water) and riffles (fast flowing areas), with gravel shoals forming around the boulders. This creates a greater variety of features within the river and improves the habitat for spawning fish, such as brown trout and birds such as kingfisher, common sandpiper and dipper.

Seiont – Llyn Padarn Arctic Char stocking

Due to declining numbers of Arctic char in Llyn Padarn, a limited programme of stocking has been  in  place  since  2009.                             The aim is to enhance and protect Arctic Char numbers. During 2020 around 7500 juvenile Char, reared in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Cynrig Hatchery, have been released into their native lake in Llanberis, Gwynedd. In December 2019, NRW collected Arctic Char eggs from Afon y Bala, which flows into Llyn Padarn. Now, after ten months of care and hard work, the young Char have been released into the lake.

Work has been done over many years to improve water quality in Llyn Padarn, Wales’ only designated inland bathing water, which is now graded as excellent. This work is paying dividends, helping to conserve and enhance these enigmatic fish. We will continue to build on this work so that wildlife continues to thrive in and around Llyn Padarn.

Dee – LIFE Dee river project

The LIFE Dee river project is an ambitious, multi-million- pound river restoration project to transform the River Dee and its surroundings, to help improve declining fish populations and rare wildlife in the area. The £6.8 million, cross-border project will bring multiple benefits to the environment, particularly improving the numbers of salmon, lamprey and freshwater pearl mussels, helping them become more sustainable in the future.

The project was officially online in September 2020, with over 150 attendees, and included presentations and messages of support from Clare Pillman, NRW Chief Executive; Sir David Henshaw, NRW Chair; Hannah Blythyn MS, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government; Will Millard, Angling Author and TV Presenter, and Joel Rees-Jones, LIFE Dee River Project Manager.

Dee – Tryweryn LIFE Dee weir removal

Only a couple of days after launching the project, the team were straight to work and successfully completed their first major milestone, a weir removal on the Afon Tryweryn; a tributary of the River Dee.

Work to dismantle the redundant weir on the Tryweryn was carried out by experienced local contractors, in conjunction with NRW’s technical specialists, to remove the man-made structure and help improve access for fish. Boulders from the weir were redistributed to provide important habitat and spawning areas for the variety of species that live in the river, and were also used to stabilise the riverbed.

Mawddach – Afon Wen Boulder removal

This scheme has improved fish migration on the Afon Wen, a tributary of the Afon Mawddach, and was completed by NRW contractors. This project aimed to remove a boulder which had plugged a natural obstruction during a 100-year flood           event           in           2001.           The           boulder           was preventing salmon from migrating upstream to spawn, which was confirmed by electro fishing in the area.

Historically salmon had migrated to the upper reaches of the Afon Wen, where they had been caught by anglers, and spawning had been witnessed by locals and National Rivers

Authority staff. This piece of work has re-opened 4km of spawning habitat for salmon, and we hope to see salmon recolonise the upper Wen over the coming year.

Fisheries habitat restoration surveys

NRW are working with Afonydd Cymru, the North Wales Rivers Trust and the Welsh Dee Trust to undertake habitat restoration survey works on several catchments within North Wales. These include the Glaslyn, Dyfi,  Dee,  Conwy  and  various  Anglesey  catchments. The aim of the surveys is to identify where habitat for fish can be improved.

This will provide the relevant information for NRW or partners to be able undertake projects, subject to funding availability, that will improve the quality and quantity of habitat in these rivers for fish.

Mawddach – Afon Eden Llyn Cloc weir removal

Llyn Cloc was a concrete hydrology weir on the Afon Eden, part of the Mawddach catchment. The historic structure was owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and was part of the Ardudwy leat scheme, monitoring water abstraction from the Eden’s tributaries in the 1960’s.

This partial river obstruction was a priority for NRW to remove as it would improve salmon, sea trout and eel migration. Having been given permission by the NDA to demolish the structure, we worked in partnership with the North Wales Rivers Trust to deliver the scheme, funded by Afonydd Cymru.

Increased disabled access for anglers at Llyn Trawsfynnydd

Prysor Angling Association, working with NRW, are aiming to improve access to fishing on Llyn Trawsfynnydd for less able anglers. As part of a suite of improvements, they are undertaking a project that will include improved parking facilities for disabled anglers and purchase of a wheely boat (from the Wheely Boat Trust) that allows full participation of angling from the water.

Mawddach – Afon Gamlan gravel traps

With funding from Sustainable Funding Programme (SFP) two large gravel traps were constructed by NRW’s contractors on the Afon Gamlan, a tributary of the Mawddach catchment. NRW’s fisheries team, along with the Mawddach Trust, have been improving in-river fish habitat by constructing log weirs in active channels to create

pools, cover for fish and create spawning habitat. This scheme was primarily to encourage salmon to spawn on the lower reaches of the Gamlan and involved using large boulders from the site and 70 tons of gravel from a local quarry.

Environmental Crime Officers (ECO’s):

Reducing illegal fishing, acting against environmental crime and illegal waste activity in North West Wales, including:

  • Illegal Fishing – land and sea
  • Illegal shellfish activity
  • Rod licence checks

Due to decreasing numbers of salmon returning to UK waters to spawn, new Wales Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) Byelaws 2017 are now in place to prevent active salmon fishing, and to ensure that any salmon caught by fishermen are released. Due to the pandemic and the series of lockdowns, fieldwork activity has necessarily been restricted in order to keep both staff and the public safe.

During 2020, ECO’s carried out visible patrols when conditions allowed, to prevent or minimise impacts from illegal bass netting on the Menai Straits, rod licence checks, gold panning and illegal cockling. We have jointly worked with local authorities, WG Sea Fisheries and the NWP Rural Crime team on our higher priority cases during this time in order to disrupt or prevent illegal activity from continuing wherever needed and was safely possible.

Officers will continue to prioritise and react to incidents reported us that require attention. We continue to be heavily reliant on the assistance of both anglers and other members of the public to help us identify offenders, locations and times that these offences are taking place.

Notes from Wales Fisheries Forum 19 November 2020

The meeting was held via a Skype video conference there were 24 attendees (hopefully I have included everyone – not easy on a video conference!):

David Mee (NRW)

Emma Keenan (Secretary for meeting, NRW)

Peter Gough (NRW)

Robert Vaughan (NRW – Update on land reform)

Steve Ormerod (Chair, NRW)

Rachel Evans (Countryside Alliance)

Alan Winstone (Afonydd Cymru)

Chris White (Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries; North Wales LFGs)

Creighton Harvey (SW LFGs)

Dylan Roberts (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Carl Tonner (Angling Cymru)

Mark Owen (Angling Trust)

Nicola Teague (IFM)

Paul Edwards (Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association)

Richard Garner Williams (Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru)

Denise Ashton (Wild Trout Trust)

Mervyn Williams (Dee & Clwyd LFG)

Mungo Munro (Severn Trust)

Stuart Smith – Wye

Guy Mawle – Usk

Lee Evans – Taff & Valleys

Gary White (NRW – Pollution incidents)

Dave Maccallum (NRW – Access)

Tiggy Pettifer (AST)

General observation

Whilst there were some positive initiatives presented by NRW there was little time for angling issues to be discussed – or as Alan Winstone put it referring to the meeting:

 “It was a bit long with a lot crammed in. It felt a bit like NRW trying to tell us how good they were and we were telling them the evidence on the ground is different! I think it would be better with a less cluttered agenda and NRW being clear on what advice and input they want from us”.

The forum for discussing issues affecting your local rivers is of course your local LFG but sadly attendance and support from local anglers has diminished over recent years mainly due to the lack of positive action from NRW (other than imposing unwarranted byelaws on anglers).  I have attached the meeting papers and would draw your attention to the second bullet point in the draft WFF Terms of Reference:

  • seek to integrate our work to protect and restore fisheries within the larger business operations of NRW;

To my mind this reflects the lack of concern withing NRW for the protection of fisheries and perhaps demonstrates that NRW is no longer an environmental organisation.  We all understand that fisheries personnel within NRW have been decimated and there is now no longer a dedicated fisheries department within the day to day ‘business operations of NRW’ we therefore need to support our local LFG’s and the few fisheries officers left within NRW who fight on our behalf.

The following are my [brief] notes on the agenda items once the minutes are approved, I will forward these.  I am not a fan of meetings conducted by video conferencing as it makes interaction difficult as any questions must be typed and then wait for the Chairman to invite you to speak.

AGENDA ITEMS

  1. Welcome. Steve Ormerod welcomed the members and asked if there were any items for inclusion in AOB.  Apologies had been received from Ruth Jenkins.
  2. Admin Matters. The draft minutes and actions arising from these were discussed (copy of the previous minutes attached), these were then approved as an accurate record of the last meeting.  The draft terms of reference (TOR) were discussed and approved; it was also mentioned that updated TOR for LFG’s would be put forward at LFG meetings.  Members of WFF were asked to raise this with members of their local LFG.  SO asked if there were any declarations of interest, Chris Mills declared that he was president of the Institute of Fisheries Management and a member of the RSPB Country Advisory Committee for Wales.  Dave Mee advised that the NASCO implementation plan has been delayed due to COVID difficulties and that the link to the NASCO website provided in the meeting notes does not work; this is now the link to the UK Implementation Plan: NASCO “Implementation Plan” for 2013-18 this is for the period 2019 to 2024 I am not sure why the hyperlink says 2013-18.  The link to the NASCO website is: North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization – NASCO.  Alan Winstone asked if there was any update on the Salmon Plan of Action (SAP) and asked that WFF members were kept up to date to ensure that this is not just a desktop exercise to be forgotten.  We were advised that a spreadsheet of actions and deliveries would be available to keep everyone informed.
  3. New Forum members:  SO welcomed the new WFF who were representing LGF’s from the Wye, Severn, Taff and the Valleys and Dee & Clwyd and they were asked to introduce themselves to the members of WFF.
  4. Water quality and incidents in Welsh rivers: This was a somewhat lengthy update on the latest position regarding Agricultural regulations present by Bob Vaughan.  It seems from the presentation that whilst this was positive news in real terms little will change until 2024 as there will be a long transition period.  The Welsh Government will publish a White Paper on or around 16 December but this will lack detail which can only be included once the White paper has been accepted by WG.  It seems that Wales will continue to make use of an EU derogation based upon the 2017/18 Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ’s) but the intention is to expand NVZ’s to cover the whole of Wales.  The problem is WG are only concerned with general NVZ’s and do not seem to have considered the source and NRW are not happy about this and would prefer regulation which prevents an increase in nitrates etc and not just treat the after effects.  Guy Mawle suggested that regulation was weak and that NRW opt for a soft touch to breaches of existing regulations and codes of practice.  In response Bob Vaughan said that NRW do take breaches seriously but due to staff restrictions they simply do not have sufficient staff to carryout enforcement.  Bob Vaughan explained that part of the delay in implementation of new legislation is due to WG Ministers preparing for the elections next year, but draft regulations should be available for consultation in spring 2021 i.e. jam tomorrow.  There was a short presentation on pollution incidents by Gary White of NRW the common theme here was yet a gain a lack of resources, but staff are trained to police standards in gathering information/evidence.  Several questions were raised about the time it takes to prosecute offenders which can be up to 2 years.  It was also suggested that courts require impact assessments to determine the level of fine.  It is far better to prevent rather than punish offenders.  Richard Garner-Williams (S&T.org)suggested that members should read the Axe report, this is the link to this report: Final-Axe-Regulatory-Report.pdf (salmon-trout.org) which outlines the approach taken and its effectiveness I have taken the following from the report:

“This evaluation clearly demonstrates the power of advice, backed up by regulation and supported by financial incentives to create positive benefits for water quality. Neither advice, incentives nor regulation delivered in isolation of the others will generate the desired environmental improvements in water quality”.

It is worth reading this report as a guide to the way forward, with commitment and funding much can be achieved.

  • Access to Water Sub-Group: You will find the presentation in the attached notes but please note the date as this was from 2019 and does not align with the latest set of minutes (attached) from this group.  The most memorable thing from this presentation was the acknowledgement from Dave Maccallum who Chairs this group for NRW that there is no right of access on rivers or still waters.  It was claimed by DM that all members of the sub-group supported their proposal to WG, Rachel Evans (Countryside Alliance) commented that this was not necessarily true of all sub-group members! It seems that they are now looking for a pilot water to trial the proposals but this may be restricted to a Stillwater.  As you may expect I raised the issue of Canoe Pal as a simple pragmatic way of allowing riparian owners to offer controlled access, as ever this fell upon deaf ears.  I also pointed out that recreational paddlers are less of an issue than commercial operators but the drive for open access is coming from these commercial operators who just want to make money from others property and care nothing for the environment or rightful users. 
  • Updates from other fora papers taken as read: You will see there is a paper on FEB’s which outlines how surveys will be conducted by the BTO who have been contracted by NRW to count FEB’s on rivers.  I asked what methodology the BTO would use but did not get an answer only that they were independent experts used to carrying out bird counts.  If you look at the BTO website, you can see how they carryout bird counts by making a 1Km grid of the area to be surveyed and then co-ordinating counting to start at a specific time.  According to the latest BTO newsletter (Attached) it will be BTO local volunteers who will carry out the survey by walking the riverbanks.  I asked why drones were not being used and was told by SO that the noise from drones would disturb the birds and that getting permission to overfly riparian areas may be a problem, my experience of FEB counts demonstrates that walking on the riverbank disturbs the birds and you need to get landowner permissions!  As far as I can make out the survey will be on main river stems and major tributaries and this will not include upland spawning streams.  In North Wales it is predation on these upland spawning streams which is of real concern I have been asked to send map references to of spawning streams on the Conwy which should be included but I am not holding my breath that this will happen.  In support of the use of drones Tiggy Pettifer of the AST said that they had been used successfully in Scotland.  Can you raise this issue at your LFG meetings, it may be too late as these surveys will be commencing shortly.
  • Fisheries Updates paper: This is attached in the notes.
  • AOB:  I had submitted requests for items to be included in the agenda (as had others) but these were pushed into AOB and as we were running out of time (after 3.5 hours) most were not dealt with.  But I did manage to raised the issue of unauthorised dredging of rivers and streams.  This was due to over 0.5Km of the Afon Elwy (a North wales spate river) being dredged to bedrock during the first lockdown, no permits were issued for this work. The photographs show one third of the stretch of river which was dredged supposedly to stop bank erosion – it won’t and may actually accelerate the damage during the winter floods:

NRW are now trying to get the farmer to restore this section of river at his cost rather than prosecute – the NRW soft touch on enforcement yet again.  As treasurer for the North Wales Rivers Trust I have been paying bills for river restoration projects to repair dredging of this type and I would estimate the cost of restoring this stretch of river to a good environmental standard to be in excess of £20K.  The club who own the fishing rights to this stretch have lost three good sea trout pools, I doubt that any restoration works will re-create these pools.

Agenda: Wales Fisheries Forum

Agenda

Title of meetingWales Fisheries Forum
Date of meeting: 19th Nov 2020Time of meeting: 13:30 to 16:30
Venue: Skype 

Chair – Professor. Steve Ormerod Forum Secretariat – Emma Keenan

TimeSubject
13:301. Welcome, introductions and apologies Introduction Prof Steve Ormerod- NRW Board Deputy ChairAOB items
13:45Admin MattersApproval of draft minutesTerms of reference updateDeclarations of interest
14:00New forum membersNew members to introduce themselvesMungo Munro – SevernStuart Smith – WyeGuy Mawle – UskLee Evans – Taff & ValleysMervyn Williams – Dee & Clwyd
14:15Water quality and incidents in Welsh riversAgricultural regulations; sustainable farming future (paper taken as read) – presentation by Bob Vaughan Sustainable Land Use Manager, and Ruth Jenkins Head of Natural Resource Management   Incident Response   Pollution incident and fish kill response – presentation by Gary White Lead Specialist Advisor, Incident Management
14:5010 – minute break
15:00Access to Water Sub-GroupAccess to Water Sub-Group presentation and discussion lead by Dave Maccallum – Chairman of the Access to Water Sub-Group; Specialist Advisor: Water Access & Recreation NRW
15:45Updates from other fora – papers taken as readWales Water Management ForumNational Access Forum WalesWales Land Management Forum – Sub Group on Agricultural Pollution
16:00Fisheries Update paperTaken as readForum members questions on updates
16:15AOBMatters raised by membersOtherHow did we do?Deadlines for minutes approvalDONM

Chris White adds perspective

John,

In terms of a mandate to represent anglers in Wales CPWF are recognized by angling organizations in Wales i.e. Angling Cymru and the majority (WUF failed to respond!) of angling clubs across Wales agreed that CPWF could represent them.  So as an officer of CPWF, albeit resident in England, you do have a mandate to speak on behalf of Welsh anglers.  I keep CPWF supporters up to date with what we are doing via email as does Allan Cuthbert via the CPWF website.

You are correct in saying that the NRW consultations are a box ticking exercise and if you remember at the pre hatchery closure meeting at Coed y Brenin we were told that unlike a Welsh Government consultation NRW were not bound by the results.  We saw this in action with the hatchery closure consultation, the bylaw consultation was of course a Welsh Government initiative (as it required new legislation) who could not ignore our objections hence the need for an inquiry (the least said about that the better!). 

The problem is most of the policies adopted by NRW came from WUF who successfully introduced the C&R bylaw to the 1 June on the Wye which the following year became a national bylaw adopted by the EA  with the C&R requirement being extended to 16 June to appease the netsmen.  After 20 years of early season C&R, and little or no reversal of the declining salmon stocks, in 2012 WUF convinced NRW to extend C&R for the whole season on the Wye, Usk and Taff laying the foundation for NRW to extend this to all Welsh rivers despite there being no evidence that C&R works.  It was the lobbying of WUF who forced through the method restrictions as on the Wye and Usk these had no detrimental effect on angling effort being premier fly fishing waters although many salmon are taken spinning in the early season.

In my recent email I referred to ‘Tinkering with the CL’ I was referring to the EA/NRW/CEFAS trying to justify their river classifications by trying to address the unknows in their methodology.  I suspect that they may fall back on the Irish system which now relies heavily on input from angler co-operation and information to fill in some of the unknowns in determining the CL for each individual river system.  I will see if I can find the Irish  paper on my old PC and forward it to you (you may already have a copy as I think I sent it out prior to the inquiry).

Whilst demonstrating that the present methodology for determining CL is flawed it is important that we need to be seen to be addressing the root cause of the decline in migratory fish stocks which from my perspective seems to be low on the agenda by the agencies who are starved of money and resource.  The belief that removing barriers to migration will, by itself, reverse the decline even with habitat restoration is misplaced, the monies spent on the Wye would seem to support this and while there is some improvement on the Wye it has been minimal. 

The problem is Government is more focused on farming than in the protection of fish stocks.  In Wales the Control of Pollution Act (see attached) is still in draft form despite a promise following the inquiry that this wold be in place in 2020.  It seems unlikely that this legislation will be enacted this year (if at all!) despite promises that agricultural pollution would be urgently addressed.   The carrying capacity of spawning streams is reduced due to agricultural pollution reducing the invertebrate populations with less food to support fry/parr, the CL is of course dependant upon the carrying capacity of the system to produce smolts.

The improved runs on the upper Conwy are due to the water quality as there is little agriculture (cereal crops requiring pesticides) other than sheep grazing but sadly the arrival of chicken farms on the headwaters could well see a reversal over the next few years.

Demonstrating the error in data is all well and good but we need to go to the table with solutions based upon local knowledge of our own river systems.  We need co-operation not confrontation and we need to be seen as enablers who can help EA/NRW in protecting fish stocks, I fear that the recent floods will see most money and resource being directed to flood defence over the next few years and with the potential loss of this years spawning we may see further restrictions on fishing being introduced.

Chris

John Eardley: back in action!

Firstly I have deliberately reduced recipients of this email to Mike and those with a vested interest in Welsh fisheries. The situation we now find ourselves in has a long running background and in order to try and clarify my own thoughts regarding the way forward I find it helpful to (briefly!) refer to some of the key points:

· During the closure of hatcheries and ending of third party stocking debacle we learned something of the direction in which NRW Fisheries was heading i.e. consultations were consultations in name only, stakeholders concerns would be ignored/dismissed, spin at the Board Meeting regarding the numbers objecting to the proposals etc.

· The All Wales Byelaws revealed more of the same tactics only this time elevated to a new level.

· We fought our corner in an ad hoc alliance with Chris, Reuben & myself having the backing of colleagues from the Gwynedd LFAG and ably assisted by Mike on the statistical front. We were also able to call on the backing/support from elsewhere in Wales. I for one was humbled to have the backing of those people even though in the end our arguments were dismissed by the Inspector.

· Nevertheless I still stand by the key points of our argument e.g. the decline of stocks across Wales is not universal and each river system should be assessed individually (one size fits all does not address local issues), there has been a positive response to Voluntary C&R on the majority of Welsh rivers and that should continue in accordance with NASCO policy, method restrictions make lengthy stretches of spate rivers in North Wales virtually unfishable by any legal means etc.

· At the Jan 2018 Board Meeting, despite not being allowed to address Board Members other than during their coffee/lunch break, we were within touching distance of winning the argument. It was the combination of Peter Gough’s portrayal of a bleak future for migratory fish stocks in Wales that was seized on by Dr Madeline Havard and Diane McCrea denying Board Members a vote that ultimately swayed things.

· During the Inquiry phase we had the support and backing of the Angling Trust and I felt that we lost something when Mark Lloyd left for a new appointment. That is what prompted my email to Jamie Cook and ultimately led to the online meeting on 6th January.

We now find ourselves in a situation whereby the All Wales Bylaws are in place for a further 9 years and despite Clare Pillman’s assurance that NRW “are committed to an interim review” in 4 years’ time I am frankly I cannot see any changes in the foreseeable future. Having gone to such extraordinary lengths to secure the Bylaws I cannot see why NRW would want to relinquish any of their hard won gains without a substantial fight. To that end I am deeply suspicious that it is in NRW’s interest that future assessments are only likely to support their regulatory action (the impact of method restrictions are also likely to be helpful in reducing catches and further depressing the figures). The timing of the introduction of the Severn emergency bylaws 2 days before an angler could have legitimately killed a salmon on the one system in Wales that did not have full mandatory C&R only serves to consolidate my views.

I also felt that the initial composition of the WFF with a bias towards members likely to be supportive of NRW’s policy such as the Wild Trout Trust, Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru etc left Chris somewhat isolated to represent our concerns. For me the appointment of further members who were supportive of the byelaws (Stephen Marsh Smith, Guy Mawle, Creighton Harvey) rather confirmed my views although I do notice from Chris’s notes yesterday that there is now further representation from LFG’s elsewhere in Wales which might possibly restore some balance and lead to greater challenge. That of course remains to be seen.

Personally I saw the suggestion from last week’s online meeting as an opportunity to exert some pressure on NRW and that was why I was more than happy to be involved in any partnership with the AT and representatives from English stakeholder groups. In my meeting with Jamie Cook, Mark Owen, Stuart Singleton-Smith & Ceri Thomas there was declared support from the AT for voluntary measures for the conservation of stocks of salmon & sea trout. Whilst that is too late at the moment for Wales, being able to demonstrate the success of such a policy in England, particularly when there is common shared stock assessment methodology, can do no harm in strengthening the case for a return to a voluntary solution in Wales.

What is troubling me at the moment is that since I am an English resident what mandate do I have to represent the views of anglers in Wales (another underhand tactic used by counsel for NRW at the Inquiry)? I’m fairly certain that I can count on the support from riparian owners and angling clubs on the Mawddach/Wnion & Dyfi but would be more at ease if that support base was broader.

Apologies for the length of this email but need to make sure that we get things right at the beginning (if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll almost certainly end up in the wrong place!) and as always would welcome your input.

John

HAPPY NEW YEAR: STAY SAFE AND WELL

With all best wishes for the new year. For those campaigners who have done so much and tried so hard for 2020, good luck for 2021 and please keep up teh good work. Thank you.

Peter Gough's definitive reply

Address:                                                           Our Ref:

Your Ref:

Mr Mike Ashwin

By e-mail                                                          Date: 14.12.20

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your letters dated 2nd and 10th December:

  • Letter dated 02.12.20 and headed: “Corrections, explanations and recommendations to the NRW published Salmon stock performance in Wales 2019 Report”
  • Letter dated 10.12.20 and headed: “Response to NRW correspondence of 30.11.20 and 03.12.20 ref NWATFCC information requests and recommendations on Welsh Stock reporting and Byelaw Impact”

Please treat this letter as a response to both.

Your letter of the 2nd December

Paragraph 2:

NRW’s Report on Salmon Stock Performance in Wales 2019 was circulated to all Local Fisheries Groups in Wales and to the strategic Wales Fisheries Forum but was received by them without significant comment (including from your colleagues in CPWF and the Angling Trust who are members of these bodies).

Section 1:

The terms Conservation Limit (CL), Management Objective (MO) and Management Target (MT) are defined in the report, as is the nature and purpose of the formal statistical compliance procedure and the link between the compliance outcome for a stock (i.e. its ‘risk status’) and the management response as informed by the Decision Structure (DS). Nowhere in the text is it stated that (in your words) “average stocks must be above the MT to achieve MO”. We think you mean ‘CL’ here and not ‘MT’?

Technically, a river that is achieving its MO will be classed as ‘not at risk’. We think it unlikely that there are “many” examples of rivers classified as ‘not at risk’ where very few egg estimates from the latest 10-year period meet the CL? However, we take the point that a river which shows a marked upward trend in egg numbers could be

classified as ‘probably not at risk’ (projected 5-years into the future) with few or perhaps any egg estimates from the last 10 years meeting the CL (hence your reference to the Wye). In those circumstances, managers would need to form a judgement as to whether measures to protect the stock should be maintained or relaxed (or even strengthened). In the case of the Wye, byelaws were already in place requiring mandatory C&R and these were maintained by NRW to support a still vulnerable stock.

Section 2:

In line with the DS, voluntary C&R to protect vulnerable salmon (and sea trout) stocks had been promoted on rivers in Wales for several years before NRW produced its Technical Case setting out the rationale for the byelaw proposals. The case for mandatory C&R was, in large part, necessary to address the minority of fishermen who refused to adopt C&R measures voluntarily, but who had been given ample opportunity to do so. You will be fully aware of the debate on this aired at the Local Inquiry; the independent judgement on this and other matters made by the Inspector; and the decision of Welsh Government which followed. That debate included the different legislative requirements pertaining to Wales but not England (underlying the different response to the DS in the two jurisdictions).

The DS will be examined as part of the wider review of stock assessment processes identified in the NASCO IP and, as part of that examination, it may be appropriate to better tailor the DS to the different legislative demands of England and Wales.

However, for now, the DS in its current form remains as relevant to Wales as England – not least to inform the protection and management of sea trout as well as salmon stocks.

Section 3:

The ranking system shown in Table 2 is not new – it was used in the Technical Case. It does not reflect any formal change in “policy” by NRW, rather it is just a means of bringing together various statistics to illustrate the vulnerability of stocks,

You suggest that additional ‘performance tests’ should be included in the ranking system, but it is not clear to us what you mean by:

  • “Individual rivers actual annual Formal Compliance to CL (5 or 10 year % values)
  • A rivers actual average 5-year attainment to CL target (its MAT%)”

The trend in the latest 10-year series of (log10) egg estimates is an important component of the statistical compliance process because it captures the general ‘direction of travel’ for the stock, and by so doing incorporates an additional level of

precaution in the assessment (i.e. we would be more concerned by a stock in decline than one showing an improving trend).

The compliance graphs for the Wye, Severn, Mawddach, Conwy and Dee are shown below:

Sorry Graphs are missing

The report doesn’t provide egg deposition estimates as a percentage of the CL, but this information is given in the more comprehensive annual assessment report for E&W published by Cefas, the Environment Agency and NRW and referred to in the text of the Wales report (with link).

Section 4:

The ~25-year time-series of egg deposition estimates – given for all principal rivers in Appendix I – are provided mainly to give greater historic context (i.e. beyond the usual figures of the latest 10-year series of egg estimates). The log scale adjustment (note the numbers on the scale are arithmetic) is appropriate to illustrate patterns and trends when levels of egg deposition are highly variable within and between rivers. We don’t intend to reproduce these graphs on the usual arithmetic scale, but If you want to see the associated raw data then we can provide them. Your suggested changes to the MT line can be incorporated in next year’s report (if these figures are repeated then).

Regarding the review of stock assessment procedures as identified in the NASCO IP and rod catch raising factors – both these matters have been referred to on numerous occasions. They are covered in the wider assessment reports and in the NASCO IP itself and both documents have been brought to the attention of LFGs and WFF (including discussion on these matters). They have also been addressed repeatedly in correspondence with yourself (often copied to your associates).

Your letter of 10th December

Note to avoid repetition we’ve only responded to issues which have not been addressed in previous correspondence.

First bullet point:

The Wye is the only river in Wales where owners’ rod catch returns and not statutory licence returns are routinely used to derive run, spawner and egg estimates. This is because an effective system of collecting owners’ returns has been in place for the entire Wye system for many decades, and throughout this time this has provided the most reliable and complete source of catch data.

Second bullet point:

We have responded to this matter in our letter of the 3rd December 2020.

Third bullet point:

The average trap efficiency at Chester Weir (since the programme began in full in 1992) has been ~20% for salmon, ~25% for whitling sea trout and ~33% for older sea

trout. Clearly, in some years the efficiency will have been above and in some below these averages; however, the statement in the Dee Angler Report “that, on average, 20-30% of the run is trapped at Chester” is not unreasonable.

As you indicate, rod exploitation rates used on the Wye and Usk to derive run figures from rod catch track the extant rates estimated for the Dee (i.e. use the rolling 5-year average rate). Modelling developments (discussed in recent correspondence) may change that approach in due course, but until those developments are in place, there are no plans to alter existing methods on any river. This is also the case with other modifications to stock assessment procedures which may arise from the current review (expected completion by 2022 – as stated in the NASCO IP).

Regarding the ratios of tagged to untagged fish among the catches of logbook and other anglers on the Dee: the figures you produce for the latter assume that all recaptures are fully reported by non-logbook anglers, which we feel is highly unlikely. Indeed, we can’t estimate this reporting rate, and, outside the logbook system, we are less sure overall about the validity of the ratio of tagged to untagged fish provided by the wider angling population. There are signs in the last few years (the years you focus on) that differences in the ratio of tagged to untagged fish reported by logbook anglers and the wider angling population have been growing. The fact that fewer fish have been around to tag and recapture doesn’t help in that respect. Similarly, some anglers may also be less willing to report tags if they disagree with the recent byelaw changes. We can only work to improve on that situation, including by seeking to introduce fishery-independent methods to evaluate the ratio of tagged to untagged fish (as outlined in previous correspondence on these matters).

Fourth bullet point:

Rivers are ranked in Table 2 of the Wales assessment report as described in the text of that report (see last bullet point of Section 2). The P-values arise from the statistical compliance procedure; i.e. they are derived from linear regression methods and relate to the probability of an upward trend in (log10) egg deposition estimates for the last 10- years.

I hope this addresses your concerns, although I recognise that there may remain some differences of opinion between us.

Yours sincerely

PETER GOUGH

Principal Advisor Fisheries

Cc        Simon Toms, Environment Agency Ian Davidson, NRW

Ffôn/Tel            03000 653501

Ebost/Email peter.gough@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English

Peter Gough replies

Address:                                                           Our Ref:

Your Ref:

Mr Mike Ashwin

By e-mail                                                          Date: 30.11.20

Dear Mike,

River salmon stock estimates Re Cross Border & National Byelaw measures implementation

Thank you for your letter of the 23rd July on your subject above. Firstly, may I apologise for not having responded to that before now – this appears to have been an administrative error that only surfaced when I reviewed your email and attachments of 21st November.

This response will address the issues you raised in your letter of the 23rd July. It includes observations relevant to NRW, and not those which fall under the remit of the Environment Agency – such as questions about the Severn NLO and byelaws.

Firstly, paragraph 6 of your opening page appears to imply that the Local Inquiry in 2019 was in some way flawed in its failure to fully consider the pending review of stock assessment procedures. However, the pending review was referred to in evidence submitted to the Inquiry by NRW and others (including in your own evidence), so the Inspector was aware of it in reporting his findings.

Regarding the review of stock assessment procedures outlined in Action F2 of the NASCO IP 2019-2024: our previous correspondence of the 12th July 2020 addressed this area in some detail. To reiterate, NGOs participating in the Wales Fisheries Forum and the England Fisheries Group will have the opportunity to comment on proposals arising from that review. These NGOs include, for example, the Angling Trust.

For the latter part of your letter headed: Dee index RSE programme…etc.: in part, this re-visits issues raised and addressed in previous correspondence, so I won’t seek to repeat these. NRW does not disagree that declining salmon runs and catches (and the complex of factors potentially influencing the relationship between the two) will, if this trend continues, make estimation procedures which rely on catch data increasingly uncertain. This point was made in our previous correspondence, as was our aim to

seek to strengthen catch-independent methods to assess stocks alongside more established procedures. My colleague Ian Davidson has been in correspondence with Emeritus Professor Brian Revell regarding analyses by Professor Revell pertaining to some of these matters which he’s kindly shared with us (although we are not familiar with the quotations from Professor Revell referred to in your text, which presumably originate from other correspondence?).

Declining stocks and catches also effect the degree of uncertainty around mark- recapture estimates obtained for the Dee. This is largely unavoidable, given that, as fewer salmon return to the river, there are fewer to tag at Chester and fewer fish available to be caught by anglers. Because of this, estimates become less precise as fewer tags are recovered in absolute terms. To address this, we are looking at the possibility of reinforcing the established mark-recapture programme with deployment of automated tag screening facilities and counters associated with fish passage structures – including structures constructed in the coming years as part of the Dee LIFE project.

The use of angling exploitation rate estimates from the Dee in deriving run figures for non-counted rivers in Wales is as described in the FOI response to John Eardley of December 2018 (I presume this is the FOI you are referring to?). The regression models ‘1’ and ‘2’ you refer to are based on exploitation rate data obtained from a number of counted rivers, not just the Dee. Future model developments will also draw on data from all validated counted rivers in England and Wales. Relative differences between angling exploitation rate data obtained for 1SW and MSW salmon on the Dee are, as you indicate, used to adjust exploitation rate estimates derived for all fish to produce sea age specific values. This ‘default’ adjustment is currently applied across E&W.

Regarding your concerns about Dee salmon run estimates based on catches and tags returned by logbook holders, as opposed to the wider angling population: logbook anglers don’t ‘catch 2/3/4 times the proportion of tagged fish in their returns’ as you state. From the mid-1990s to date, the proportion of tagged fish in the reported catch has averaged 18.6% in logbook returns and 16.8% in the returns of all anglers. Those proportions have varied over time, but for the wider angling population, tag reporting rates are not accurately known – hence our focus on logbook returns.

Trap efficiency for salmon (and sea trout) at Chester has been declining gradually since the programme began in the early 1990s. Structurally, the trap has changed little since that time, however, the hours fished per year have reduced – from a 5-year average of ~5,000 hours in the early 1990s to ~4,200 hours in recent times. Trapping continues to be carried out year-round (January – December). These small changes

should not significantly affect the provision of run estimates or other key outputs from the Dee programme.

Salmon run estimates at Chester obtained from the start of the year to mid-October are based on tagging and angling recaptures. Numbers of fish entering after the end of the angling season are estimated from trap catches and average trap efficiencies. Out-of- season trap catches at Chester represent ~10% or less of the annual total.

Where tag recaptures allow, part-season run estimates have been obtained based on blocks of months, but not all individual months. In 2018, for example, the earliest period for which a part-season run estimate was obtained was January – June (684 fish). This compared to an annual run estimate of 3,796 salmon for that year. Annual rod catches and run estimates are strongly correlated.

The sea age, size and sex composition of the run at Chester (along with fishing and natural mortality estimates) are used to evaluate the proportion of the Dee run which survives to spawn and their likely egg contribution.

Monthly age-weight keys for the Dee (and more recently the Tamar) have been widely used on rivers without counters to assign rod caught fish into 1SW and MSW sea age groups as part of the general process for estimating annual egg deposition levels.

I hope this addresses the specific points you raised in July. We will aim to respond to your email communication of 21st November later this week.

Yours sincerely

PETER GOUGH

Response to NRW correspondence of 30.11.20 & 03.12.20 ref NWATFCC information requests & recommendations on Welsh Stock reporting & Byelaw Impact

North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council

part of the Angling Trust and AT North West Freshwater Forum

10.12.20

Peter Gough, NRW Principal Fisheries Advisor David Mee, NRW Snr Fisheries Advisor,

Ian Davidson, NRW Snr Environmental Assessment Officer, Dr Alan Walker, Cefas Snr Scientific Officer,

Grant Horsburgh, Defra Freshwater & Migratory Fisheries Team, Mark Owen, AT Freshwater Campaigns

Cc NWATFCC, CPWF & PAAS representatives Dear Peter,

Response to NRW correspondence of 30.11.20 & 03.12.20 ref NWATFCC information requests & recommendations on Welsh Stock reporting & Byelaw Impact

We very much appreciate your detailed responses to our communications of the 23.07.20 & 03.11.20.

I am conscious you are also midway in responding to our letter of 02.12.20 concerning the recent publication of the 2019 Salmon stock performance in Wales report. With this in mind I would like to make a full NWATFCC combined response to those three communications once we have received your last response. I expect to complete our final response within the next 10 days.

Please consider four important points in your final reply:

  • NRW & EA Rationale for reverting to using a historic 1.1 raising factor in 2019 angler declared under reported salmon rod catches. You refer specifically to correspondence between Simon Toms (EA) and myself of 4th August as explaining this. As you are now aware this correspondence has been registered as a Formal Complaint by NWATFCC to EA this week. I have provided this correspondence for you and in our view this does not provide a satisfactory explanation for a revision from 1.51 in 2018 to 1.1 in 2019. Our NWATFCC analysis of four major NW Rivers fisheries catch returns demonstrate that there is still significant angler declared catch under-reporting which we estimate to be 1.68 and higher than the 2018 factor applied. This is a major factor in NWATFCC, PAAS & CPWF formally writing to the EA, NRW & Cefas that we are unable to accept or agree with the 2019 published River stock assessments.

May we ask that NRW clarify which Welsh River fisheries do provide reliable rod catch data that is used by NRW to set individual river estimates used for total catch and egg deposition estimates.

  • Fisheries engagement in national reviews (rod exploitation rate RER & 3 year stock assessment & decision structure process). Again to re-emphasise, rod fisheries have had no confirmation of the conclusion of the RER findings which we were assured would influence and correct 2018 & 2019 assessments. Nor a timetable and proposed content/scope of the 3 year review to which we have made some very progressive and substantive proposals. We do expect to see and be a part of those formative discussions and certainly not have finished and final proposals presented to us. That has been communicated to the Angling Trust and we look forward to a commitment and further dialogue on this.

Again, this is a factor in NWATFCC, PAAS & CPWF not accepting 2018 & 2019 assessments.

  • The Index Dee assessments and estimates. In earlier correspondence with the EA the Dee Index assessment and estimates for determining whole run size, RER proportions by 1SW/MSW components(annual and 5/10 year MAT) has been mentioned as a potential model for incorporation into the 3 year review proposals. The angler log book programme, trapping, tagging and recapture estimates may well be the best angler recapture programme in E & W, of which there are few. But the system presents some concerns and you kindly offered a site visit to discuss these with you. We would welcome this.

These concerns arise from:

  • tagged fish being generated from operational trapping that has reduced to approx 50% of the available annual hours (4,200 hours of 8544 annually. This was 5,000 on average in the 1990`s)
    • the trapped proportion of total run falling to below 15% in some years. The Dee report refers to this proportion being 20 – 30 %.of the run.
    • a 5 or 10 year average Dee RER being used on the Wye & Usk when individual year RER can fall by as much as 50% year to year e.g. 2017 to 2018.
    • that the Dee anglers in the log book scheme catch 2/3/4 times the proportion of tagged to untagged salmon in their reported catch to those reported by non log book anglers. You have responded that this does not happen. I would ask you refer to the NRW Index data below that I have summarised for years 2016 -18 that does show there is a 2/3/4 times variation between these angler groups.
  • Ranking Rivers by the strength of negative trend in the latest 10 year-time series of egg depositions (Salmon stock performance in Wales 2019 report). I have discussed this with colleagues and statisticians and we are unsure as to how this data has been derived and unconvinced of the conclusions that are being drawn from this. What trend is this and what is  the equation for estimating the trend ? How are the “p” values and eight category rankings derived?. From our analysis of 6 of the best performing Welsh Rivers the published ranking categories do not correspond with our findings. We would welcome a response to these points.

Once again thank you for your patience and assistance in addressing these important discussions.

Best regards Mike Ashwin,

Chair NWATFCC North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council & on behalf of

CPWF Campaign for Protection of Welsh Fisheries & PAAS Prince Albert Angling Society.

Formal Complaint raised by NWATFCC & LWFA with presentation and reporting of River Lune stock assessment and use of Lune Index counter data

North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council

part of the Angling Trust and AT North West Freshwater Forum

6th December 2020

Sharon Kennedy, EA Environment Manager Cumbria, Keith Ashcroft, EA Director Cumbria & Lancashire,

Brian Shields, Simon Toms, Lawrence Talks, Heidi Stone EA Dr Alan Walker, Cefas Senior Scientific Officer

Mark Owen, Angling Trust

Andy Hurst & John Whitham, NWATFCC

Vic Price, Alan Edny & Brian James, L&WFA & LDAA

Formal Complaint raised by NWATFCC & LWFA with presentation and reporting of River Lune stock assessment and use of Lune Index counter data

Dear Sharon,

Further to registering our initial Formal Complaint letter of the 28th August and our later conversations over your wish that this might be dealt with as part of the EA – Response to Representations in the Lune consultation process we confirm these serious concerns have not been managed or explained in EA responses and ask that the Formal Complaint is now progressed.

NWATFCC & LWFA has consistently warned the EA of serious errors and incorrect interpretation in use of Lune Index data in stock estimates and assessments in the NLO & Byelaw Consultation.

There is no recourse for NWATFCC & LWFA to respond to incorrect statements or interpretation made by EA advisors in the final Response to Representation, without a Public Inquiry or Judicial Review. That is a wholly unsatisfactory and costly process and has resulted in our decision to raise this Complaint.

We request your national Salmonid Fisheries team answer the key and significant issues outstanding and take appropriate steps to consider whether you can recommend the proposed NLO & Byelaw measures to the Minister. We have formally written to the EA on a number of occasions this year and latterly the Defra Minister asking for the Consultation to be suspended so that a proper review and recalculation of the Lune historic estimates takes place and revised assessment and stock status published. Again we recommend that interim voluntary measures are agreed with LWFA & NWATFCC Officers in the event that the national RER and stock reviews remain inconclusive.

NWATFCC provide a short summary of the key issues arising for this complaint

  • Invalid EA assumption and premise that the historic Lune counter data and comparative rod catch based egg deposition spawning stock assessments are independent and that their pre 2015 close correlation makes use of post 2014 rod based catch assessments reliable.

The EA Fisheries specialist in the Lune Consultation Response to Representations and presumably the same person in the Byelaw Review makes the claim that the pre 2015 Lune counter data egg deposition estimates and rod catch based egg deposition estimates are independent of each other and so closely correlated over the years 1996 – 2014 (page 28 Fig 2.15 of the Review document) that this makes the rod catch data in the 2015 – 18 “reliable to use for estimating stock”, even after applying an average rod exploitation rate in those years. Page 28 states:

Importantly, the two methods consistently produce near identical assessments. The reliance solely on the rod-catch assessment method since 2015 can therefore be considered a sufficiently robust description of the stock, in the absence of the counter data.

In fact anyone observing the correlation in Fig 2.15 in each of the years 1996 – 2014 would find them so closely correlated to be wholly improbable they are independent of each other.

The fact is that the rod and counter egg deposition estimates ARE NOT independent of each other. Rod based egg deposition spawning estimates are actually derived using the annual rod exploitation factor estimate in each year, which IS DEPENDENT on the direct calculation between annual rod catch and counter numbers. They are by definition DEPENDENT estimates.

It is therefore NOT reliable to use the reported 2015 -18 rod catch using a constant average RER. That is the reason a national review of RER is underway with the purpose of introducing annually revising RER`s for individual Rivers. It is also the reason for the NWATFCC Formal Complaint and Parliamentary Ombudsman case concerning the EA`s policy in the NW to apply fixed RER`s and in the case of the River Eden the same RER for 20 years.

•             Unexplained divergence in historic Age-Weight table applications

The EA explained in their February 2020 Consultation Review document that their original incorrect Age – Weight table calculations were corrected in Lune estimates prior to release of this Consultation Review document as referred to on page 28. Even up to the last month before release we were notifying the EA of corrections that had to be made and that the unusual and wide annual divergence between individual NW Rivers and the national average (affecting 1SW/MSW proportions and their vastly different female proportions).

NWATFCC highlighted this as a major cause of concern in Lune estimates historically and the reason why the Consultation process should be delayed.

There is no explanation or attention given to 1SW /MSW proportions and their female proportions in either the Consultation Review document or Response to Representations when this has been the biggest factor in altered runs and stock estimates. Neither has there been any explanation provided as to how these table values vary from River to River or where they are derived from. In the Box 1 E & W Index River Policy document (attached) the Age – Weight values applied to individual rivers are derived from Index River outputs. Is this the Lune, the Welsh Dee, Tamar or Tyne. Whichever it is this does not explain the low River Lune & NW Age – Weight values applied which do make a significant difference to the final year estimates.

•             Multiple and significant error in use of rod exploitation rate RER estimates in post 2014 Lune annual egg deposition estimates

The EA explain that in the 5 years since 2014 when the Lune counter was malfunctioning or out of action, using a 5 year historic Lune “average” of 13% was appropriate and provided reliable rod catch based egg deposition estimates.

We refute this completely. This is the substance of the NWATFCC Formal Complaint to the EA re the Solway Byelaw – River Eden RER (unchanged at average 20% RER since 2000) and other NW river RER`s remaining unchanged and also the reason for the national RER review which we were advised by the EA would influence and inform 2018 & 2019 estimates. This review has not concluded, is a year and a half overdue and has not addressed 2018 & 2019 estimates.

Further, the EA applied the 13% RER in 2018, a year when rod catches were acknowledged to be severely impacted by drought and low fishing effort and the two remaining operational Index River counters (Dee & Tamar) reported a fall of 50% RER on 2017. NWATFCC & LWFA warned of this and referred to EA data showing the significant decline in rod effort on the Lune & other NW rivers.

The EA compared this to the Fowey & Teifi counter rivers where RER was claimed to have not been changed in 2018.This is not the case and the national exploitation reports for these years on these smaller salmon rivers show that both had significant and changed RER in 2017, 2018 & 2019.

Further the EA advisors in the Response to Representation state that the NWATFCC & LWFA claim that the actual “average 13% RER” for the Lune in those 2015 – 2018 rod catch years, when applied in year estimates using the actual different proportions of 1SW/MSW stocks demonstrated a higher than 13% average was applied, did not make “mathematical sense”.

We recommend the advisors or specialists undertake the simple calculation and confirm for themselves that the mathematics do agree with the estimates we provided and actually do make sense.

•             Unexplained error in 6th August published 2019 Assessments (2016 as 48% CL attainment)

This is self explanatory and a correction and explanation is requested as to how errors of this kind and magnitude suddenly appear in historic tables? More importantly does this make the 2019 Lune Formal Compliance 5 year forward in 2024 incorrect ?

•             Use of Index Lune Forge weir & Hydro data – its Validation, efficiency and hydro operation

The Lune Forge Weir is a nationally important Index facility. It has not reported validated data for five years due to outage, storm damage and construction of the adjacent Hydro with secondary fish pass. We understand the Hydro counter still requires validation. That is an unacceptable and ongoing state of affairs in a region where other validated and important counter facilities have been withdrawn.

The only outputs provided to Lune fisheries and anglers historically are individual month counts in months when the counters are operational. A wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs when you compare this to counter & trap data and detailed annual reports provided by the Index Welsh Dee and other SW counter rivers.

The Box 1 Index Policy statement (attached) Point 7 for the four E & W Rivers – Lune, Tyne, Tamar & Welsh Dee states that outputs and interpretation and application of Index data will be used for estimating egg deposition as part of Conservation Limit Compliance procedures.

Text Box: 7. To supply information to support Environment Agency R&D/Science and the application of fisheries modelling and assessment methods; including:

•	Initiatives to develop ‘Biological Reference Points’ (BRPs) for sea trout
•	Provision and analysis of stock and recruitment data to improve current SAP methods
•	Production of annual age-weight and rod exploitation data for input into generic models for estimating egg deposition as part of Conservation Limit compliance procedures.

The River Lune is a compromised Index facility that is not producing input to other NW Rivers to revise and influence updated Age -Weight and rod exploitation rate data, yet we are informed this is reliable data on which River Lune 10 year mandatory measures must be applied.

Thank you for your attention in these matters and we look forward to confirmation of the EA Complaint procedures.

With regards,

Mike Ashwin, Chair NWATFCC

Andy Hurst, Chair LWFA and V. Chair NWATFCC

NWATFCC update - 3 Formal EA Complaints

This communication was directed today to the EA`s – NW Fisheries Managers and Technical specialists in the F, B & G teams – Steve Garner, Colette Whiting, Darren Bedworth, David Spiby & Phil Ramsden (Andy Gowan`s replacement. EA Fisheries colleagues,
I am writing to you jointly, because the circumstances warrant this. This is FYI and no response is required. 
NWATFCC has registered 3 Formal Complaints to the EA in the last 18 months (2 this week), all concerning national and local salmon reporting procedures and interpretation of stocks. That level of challenge to stock reporting systems is unheard of. 
Some of these systems may not be your direct responsibility but you will understand and know that incorrect stock estimates have an adverse and significant impact on our major migratory river fisheries (stock status, CL compliance, angler participation, rod effort/catch, Club/Syndicate revenue, tourism income, damage to stock protection & enhancement programmes). 
The Formal Complaints raised through Sharon Kennedy comprise:

  1. June 2019 – Failure to review and revise rod exploitation rate estimates used historically in SAP framed, annual egg deposition calculations to CL. This concerns all NW Rivers estimates in the Solway, Lune & national Byelaw process. This is now with the Parliamentary Ombudsman and an assigned case officer.
  2. 07.12.20 –  Raised by NWATFCC & LWFA concerning presentation and reporting of River Lune stock assessment and use of Lune Index counter data (in River Lune 2020 NLO & Byelaw Consultation, EA Response to Representations, and to inform wider NW egg deposition estimates in CL Compliance procedures)
  3. 08.12.20 – Statements by EA and failure to use NWATFCC 2019 rod catch reports in published national Angler under-reporting catch factors in estimating the NW River estimates to CL.

The attached letters and support documents refer to Complaints 2 & 3 only.The NWATFCC estimates of accumulated error in published and underestimated 2019 river salmon stocks for NW river stocks    require an uplift in the order of between an additional 90 -100% on  current published estimates. This comprises a 43% uplift (e.g. NW Rivers with a 20% RER and correction to 13%) and an additional 58% uplift (from NWATFCC River fisheries returns that demonstrate a 1.68 EA angler declared under reporting factor is required and not the 1.1 factor used from the EA published Angler declared rod catch estimates). 
NWATFCC will consider what action it needs to take following these Complaint processes and after receiving the EA response to our request for a written explanation and reply to the NWATFCC tabled Agenda item at the December – England Fisheries Group meeting.
Finally, NWATFCC have raised concerns that the much-reduced 2019 report – Salmonid and Fisheries Statistics in England & Wales (released two months early this year !) fails to contain essential river and regional breakdown of – Migratory Licence purchases by category,  rod effort & CPUE by river, salmon weight/component analysis, monthly river analysis of salmon and sea trout & C & R catch.  At present we have very little detail to compare 2018 and 2019 River performance.
The good news is that in 2019 (and a lesser extent 2018) after all the dire predictions from the 2016 Storm Desmond impacted juvenile survey results that stocks were in critical decline, we have witnessed strong runs of returning salmon.The Derwent 2019 rod catch doubling its 2018 return and on early analysis of Eden reported fisheries catch the beats below Warwick Bridge have already exceeded the whole river 2018 catch. These returning adults from spawning progeny when voluntary C & R of 90% was being observed.
Thank you for your time and we hope you and families keep well through the turn of the season and next year.It`s been a tough year and we hope our joint efforts are rewarded.
Mike AshwinNWATFCC  North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council

NRW response

Address:                                                           Our Ref:

Your Ref:

Mr Mike Ashwin

By e-mail                                                          Date: 3.12.20

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your letter dated 3rd November 2020.

In response to the first issue you raise, the above letter was not received by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) until your email of the 21st November and hence could not have been addressed in the Wales Fisheries Forum (WFF) meeting which took place on the 19th November.

Regarding stock assessments for 2020 (and byelaw issues aside), we expect COVID19 with associated restrictions on travel and other related matters will have had an impact on angling activity. Given these exceptional circumstances, we are anticipating that some modification to assessment procedures may be necessary in 2020, however we will not take a final decision until a meaningful examination of catch returns is possible early in the New Year (noting that final reminders to submit catch returns are sent out in January). At that stage, we should also be in a position to view those provisional catch data alongside validated counts (on the rivers where we have fish counters or traps). Other factors, including possible byelaw impacts on angling, will also be considered at that time. In carrying out this work we will be liaising closely with the Environment Agency (EA) and Cefas.

The rationale behind the decision to revert back to the single (national) x1.1. raising factor to convert declared angling catches to estimates of total catch, has been covered by my EA colleague Simon Toms in his email correspondence to you of the 4th August 2020. This also addresses some of the specific points you raise about reported catches in the Northwest of England, which, of course, is outside the jurisdiction of NRW.

Simon’s response also refers to the steps we are taking (within the wider review of stock assessment procedures) to improve modelling of angling exploitation rates as a key part of the process of converting catches into estimates of returning stock. That work is progressing but is not complete, and so we do not yet have proposals to share

with WFF or the England Fisheries Group (EFG). However, once we are in position to share that information, we will do so (as we have committed to do in the NASCO IP). The last point above applies to all aspects pertaining to the review of stock assessment procedures, and provides the opportunity for engagement with external fisheries interests, both lay and specialist, including, where we can, through peer-reviewed scientific publication. We will also keep our strategic WFF informed on progress as, I suspect, the EA will do with their EFG. We will also be reporting progress through the Annual Progress Report for the NASCO IP.

Finally, I understand that Simon has previously offered to meet you to discuss some of these matters. NRW will be happy to support such a meeting.

Yours sincerely

PETER GOUGH

Principal Advisor Fisheries

Cc        Simon Toms, Environment Agency Ian Davidson, NRW

Ffôn/Tel            03000 653501

Ebost/Email peter.gough@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English