To Lesley Griffiths AM Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs


25th June 2018
Lesley Griffiths AM
Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs
Welsh Government
5th Floor
Tŷ Hywel
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA
By email to (for the personal attention of the Cabinet
Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs)

Dear Minister,
You will be aware from being copied in to emails, which I sent on 30th May and 13 th June to NRW’s Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting, that the NRW Principal and Senior
Fisheries Advisors would be attending the Angling Advisory Group meeting jointly organised by the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency. The purpose of this meeting, which was held lastTuesday, was to discuss ways of increasing the numbers of salmon which are voluntarily released by anglers. I was invited to attend the meeting to provide input from an angler’s perspective in Wales and was joined by colleagues from various regions of England, all of whom have extensive experience and excellent track records in the conservation of salmon stocks. There was intense discussion throughout the meeting but most importantly a genuine feeling that progress was being made to find solutions in the current byelaw processes in England. The efforts of the Environment Agency in this process were both recognised and appreciated. A number of key points emerged during the day which you need to be made aware of:
 It was widely accepted that a dictatorial approach neither works, nor allows us to achieve shared conservation goals. Indeed, it is often counterproductive when anglers feel that their concerns go unheeded and as a result they resort to a “bloody minded” approach. Education, peer group pressure and developing a culture of “we all need to do our bit” are what have delivered results in areas where voluntary return rates are notably high.

 Anglers need to see that steps are being taken to tackle areas which are a far greater threat to the future of our migratory fish stocks than legitimate angling ever can be. To that end we do welcome the setting up of working groups on both fish eating birds and agricultural pollution here in Wales. However the irony of a voluntary solution to agricultural problems is not lost on us.
 Bridges must be built with the angling community if we are to make real progress. Along with a genuine shared approach, the language that is used to deliver the message is extremely important. It was a colleague from England who pointed out to NRW’s Principal Fisheries Advisor that his comment of “There will be no further debate” in a recent press release was a shining example of how to further alienate the angling community. We would of course add “We are prepared to make ourselves deeply unpopular” to that, although the NRW Fisheries Team have clearly delivered on that front.

 The rejection of a voluntary approach requires a considerable enforcement resource which the Environment Agency (and NRW) do not have.
 Proposals for England will be based upon the 2017 – 2022 river classifications and these have been upgraded to account for significant under reporting. The result of this is that the number of English rivers classified as “At Risk” has been reduced from 10 to 4. I am told that the figures for Wales have been upgraded in a similar way but until I have received the copy
promised by the NRW Fisheries Team, and had chance to scrutinise it, I am unable to comment further.
 Most crucially is that “Probably at Risk” rivers in England will not be subjected to mandatory measures. The fact that 5 of the 6 rivers moved from “At Risk” to “Probably at Risk” are located in North West England poses a very real threat to both angling clubs and angling tourism in Wales, given their proximity to both the border and large centres of population. A failure to address the legitimate concerns of anglers, the rejection of any form of voluntary solution and the relentless pursuit of the “preferred option” of a legislative approach is the very antithesis of what was seen as the way forward at the meeting. Of course, the decision on the future of both salmon and sea trout angling conservation and
angling is now out of NRW’s hands and rests with Welsh Government. Whilst this is clearly a devolved decision, it would seem unwise not to take into account what is happening in England and also fail to take advantage of shared expertise, particularly when there is both a common stock assessment and fishing licence. In any case, should a voluntary approach fail to deliver, legislation would still remain a viable, though unpopular, option. There is a real opportunity here to seize the moment and deliver a solution which would not only have far more of a sustainable element of the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources to it, but also, by empowering the fishing community, contribute greatly to the vision set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act. Furthermore, immediate action would save more salmon in 2018, during the main runs of fish from August onwards, than allowing this current conflict to continue. It would also go a long way towards alleviating some of the damage which was highlighted in my previous

We really would like to work with both Welsh Government and NRW to deliver something which the rivers of Wales deserve. Let us take the first steps down that path now.

Yours sincerley
John Eardley
Strategy Officer: Campaign for the protection of Welsh fisheries

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