Last edit 16th July 2021

Rivercide! Chris White's commentary

Chris White

Richard,

I am sending this to you as can you please pass this on as I don’t have the email address for the person who now looks after the Conwy.

I am not sure if you saw the telecast by George Mobiot the other night if not this is now on YouTube (RIVERCIDE with George Monbiot & Charlotte Church – YouTube) this video is 1 hour long (you can skip the end as it is just Charlotte Church singing!). 

The video focuses on the pollution on the Wye, the potential causes of this pollution and the lack of action in controlling the sources of the pollution.  Lesley Griffiths was interviewed but the head of the EA did not respond. 

Whilst the focus was on the Wye it is applicable to all of our rivers.  I raise this as from what Rich White said the Conwy below Betws is Brown which probably indicates high levels of phosphate resulting in an explosion of diatoms.  The sewage treatment plant in Betws is known to release raw and treated sewage into the Llugwy and despite the promise from Welsh Water that they would sort this out it is still happening.  If you remember I also expressed concerns about the Chicken farm at Fron Bella and the spreading of the chicken manure on land above the Afon Nugg, there are also dairy farms on the upper Conwy and overgrazing of sheep to contend with.  The recent heavy rain may well have washed the manure into the feeder streams on the upper Conwy catchment. I doubt that there is anything we can do now as the stable door was left open a long time ago allowing this type of pollution to occur and we now probably just have to watch as the Conwy slowly goes into decline.  It would be interesting if NRW could carryout regular monitoring of phosphate levels in the river or more likely we will have to buy our own monitoring equipment and supply NRW with our findings.  It would be nice to think that NRW will be proactive but I doubt this will happen, as I pointed out at the Byelaw Inquiry it is not the anglers catching fish which is the problem it is the survival from egg to smolts which is the issue I.e. the mortality of fry and parr due to pollution resulting in fewer smolts going to sea.  Sadly despite the work the Trust carries out the source of the pollution is not being effectively addressed, Lesley Griffiths explained that she had introduced legislation but this is too little too late and wont be fully implemented for three years.

Chris

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View in browser | Media Release from Angling Trust & Fish Legal


Media Release July 7th, 2021Judge says Government’s promise to report on protected sites is legally binding A Judge at the High Court has ruled that a promise made by the Government in 2015 to provide reports on sensitive rivers and lakes is enforceable.

WWF, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal took Defra and the Environment Agency (EA) back to Court on 16th June for failing to publish the reports which are expected to detail the measures necessary to get sensitive rivers and lakes back to “favourable” condition after years of agricultural pollution. In 2015, Defra and the EA had said that they would provide the reports to include their investigations and details of the steps or “measures” to reverse their decline. However, almost six years later and with little of the work completed, the Government argued that they had “no legal obligation” to prepare the reports – even though the agreement was Court-approved. Binding and enforceable Mrs Justice Lang agreed with the environmental and angling groups that the promises made in 2015 were binding and enforceable. However, she said that the Government was able to take into account complexity, resources, Brexit and the Covid pandemic in deciding whether they had acted “as soon as reasonably practicable”, despite the delay. That meant that the Government was not in breach of the agreement. Deterioration Out of a list of 37 sites that Defra and the EA intended to report on, only five have final reports or “Diffuse Water Pollution Plans” (DWPPs). The handful of published DWPPs, including for Wensum, Lambourn, Minsmere & Walberswick and Wybunbury, show little improvement and some evidence of actual deterioration. Meanwhile, from what little is known about the other 32 sites, there are fears of irreversible decline.
Failing rivers Of the waters which haven’t yet had full reports carried out on them there are a number of serious concern to anglers due to their failing state. These include the Wye as well as the Yorkshire Derwent, the Derwent in Cumbria, the Eden, the Ehen, the Dee, the Camel, and the Tweed & Till.The Wye and its tributaries are under pressure from agricultural pollution which has caused algal blooms and damage to water quality, weed growth and salmon, including spawning gravels. Salmon are a flagship species for our rivers, a quintessential fish, deeply rooted in our heritage and culture. Large Wye salmon have declined by 54-88% since the 1970s.The Rivers Test and Itchen, two of the most famous chalkstream trout rivers in England, have been degraded by pollution from agriculture including fish farms and cress beds as well as excessive abstraction, exacerbating the effects of pollution.
Justin Neal of Fish Legal said: “The Court has now confirmed that the agreement set out in the Consent Order in 2015 is binding on the Government. Of course, we are concerned that the Court ruled that Defra and the Environment Agency can take into account resources in what is a binding contract as this is likely to further delay the production of the reports, and resulting improvements. We will be pressing Defra and the EA to hold to its agreement.
Mark Owen from the Angling Trust said:“ Whilst delighted that the Judge has upheld our claim that the Consent Order, and the actions required, are legally binding on the Government we are disappointed that a lack of resources allocated by Government can be used as an excuse for delay. The present state of our rivers is disgraceful and if urgent action is not taken now then further deterioration will take place. Time is not on the side of this Government to live up to its promises.
Editor’s Notes: Legal challenge from WWF, Angling Trust and Fish Legal In 2015, WWF, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal launched a judicial review against Defra and the Environment Agency because of their failure to stop the damage caused to some of the most precious rivers and wetlands in England by agricultural pollution. They argued that the Government was deliberately avoiding the use of a key “measure” – Water Protection Zones (WPZs) – to protect them. These sites need to meet stringent legal standards because of their unique characteristics and species. But despite this, they suffer from continued pollution from agriculture, including slurry and pesticides. However, at the High Court in November 2015, WWF, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal agreed to drop the legal action in return for promises that the Environment Agency and Defra would publish reports on the sites – called Diffuse Water Pollution Plans (DWPPs)  – “as soon as reasonably practicable”. These reports were meant to include details of investigations and actions to bring the sites back to “favourable status”, which could include WPZs. About Fish Legal Fish Legal is a membership association using the law to protect fish stocks and the rights of its members throughout the UK.  It is united in a collaborative relationship with the Angling Trust, the national representative and governing body for angling in England.  Joint membership packages with the Angling Trust are available for individuals, clubs, fisheries and other categories. fishlegal.net
About the Angling Trust The Angling Trust is the national governing body representing all game, coarse and sea anglers and angling in England. They lobby government, campaign on environmental and angling issues and run national and international competitions. They fight pollution, commercial over-fishing at sea, over-abstraction, poaching, unlawful navigation, local bans and a host of other threats to angling. anglingtrust.net
For further information, additional content or to arrange an interview, please contact :Justin Neal, Fish Legal –  justin.neal@fishlegal.net   Tel: 07496 877006Mark Owen, Angling Trust –  mark.owen@anglingtrust.net   Tel: 07545 733245Fish Legal is a membership association using the law to protect fish stocks and the rights of its members throughout the UK. It is united in a collaborative relationship with the Angling Trust, the national representative and governing body for angling in England. Joint membership packages with the Angling Trust are available for individuals, clubs, fisheries and other categories.
Click here for more information about membership Angling Trust & Fish Legal, Eastwood House, Rainbow Street, Leominster, HR6 8DQTelephone: 01568 620447View in browser | Unsubscribe
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River Pollution: River Clywedog, Wrexham

Please follow the link below to read the BBC News item

The North Atlantic Salmon: A film

The life of the North Atlantic Salmon, a film by Highplains https://youtu.be/T_yhf6u3Jpc

Chris White: The Wye proposals: Anglers beware

I think the term ‘here we go again’ just about sums up the proposals on the Wye which will undoubtedly spill over to the rest of England and Wales as per the spring byelaws.  They are of course clutching at straws and are finding excuses for why despite 24 years of controls on the Wye the salmon numbers have continued to decline despite the millions that have been spent on habitat improvement.  It now seems that the excuse is worm fishers are preventing the recovery.  This of course plays into NRW’s hands who will claim that any byelaw changes are due to requests from anglers, this was why the spring byelaws were introduced and then in 2012 the 100% C&R on the Wye.  Those who fish the premier beats on the Wye/Usk care little for North Wales rivers which they consider not worth fishing and have left these small spate rivers for the locals to fish.  They now seem hell bent of imposing restrictions which will be the death knell for many clubs who fish North Wales rivers, restrictions may well start on the Wye but will be coming to a river near you in the future!

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