A bleak future for the Mawddach.

Like others I have not had sight of this document but clearly it helps reinforce the case for the All Wales Byelaws. In the case of the Mawddach & Wnion I have deep concerns that the current stock assessment methodology does not reflect in any meaningful way what we actually observe swimming in the river. Yes, the runs of fish are a shadow of what they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s but in no way are they in the terminal decline that some would have us believe. Mercifully juvenile numbers have also not suffered in the way that other rivers have done with some recent results being described by NRW as “the best on record” (at least there’s one area where we agree with NRW!).

I understand that the Management Target is a figure that managers should aim for in order to ensure that the Management Objective is achieved but why is there so much variation i.e. in the case of the Dee the MT is 1.13x the CL whereas in the case of the Mawddach it is 1.47x greater?

It is hard for me to see how rod catch based stock assessments are ever going to give a meaningful reflection of the state of small spate rivers Mawddach when other local factors are taken into account:

The tidal river was once a thriving low water worm fishery where considerable numbers of both salmon and sea rout were caught by anglers fishing by anglers using lively but static worms. This form of angling has steadily declined in recent years to the point where it is all but extinct and there is little likelihood of newcomers learning the technique. Other than the relevant chapters in Falkus’ Salmon Fishing and Sea Trout Fishing there is precious little in the angling press to point anyone in the right direction.

Likewise anglers prepared to tackle the upper river gorges and pools with a skilfully swum worm are an endangered species these days. Factor in the impact method restrictions within the byelaws and the difficulty of safely and ethically returning a fish and there is little prospect of the numbers of fish recorded by anglers in those lengthy sections of the upper river ever returning to what they once were. I realise that will be of little concern to those who fish those rivers that are much more suited to the fly rod but I have had some wonderful times in such areas in the past and it formed a sizeable part of my angling education.

I suspect that the smaller spate rivers are also prone to considerable error in reporting given the relatively small numbers of catch returns compared with the larger catchments. A relatively small number of anglers catch the majority of fish on rivers such as the Mawddach and the omission of just one anglers catch return can significantly skew the results.

Sadly there is an unwillingness on the part of NRW to take any of this on board and the current situation seems unlikely to change. Until there is a river by river catchment based solution instead of the current one size fits all “All Wales Byelaws” that have been foisted upon us, sadly I can only see a bleak future for the Mawddach.

John Eardley

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