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

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