Chris White: Notes on the Welsh Fisheries Forum


Stephen Marsh-Smith Afonydd Cymru
Richard Garner Williams Welsh Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru
Mark Lloyd Angling Trust
Alan Winstone Clwyd, Conwy & Gwynedd Rivers Trust
Paul Edwards Welsh Salmon & Trout Angling Association
Denise Ashton Wild Trout Trust
Chris White Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries
Johnathan Luke Davies Welsh Government (Inland Fisheries)
Peter Gough NRW
John Clark NRW
Nicola Teague Institute of Fisheries Management
Rachel Evans Countryside Alliance
Ruth Jenkins (CHAIR) NRW
David Mee NRW

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome and Introductions (Ruth Jenkins)

Ruth welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the forum and reviewed the action items from the previous (inaugural) meeting.  The draft minutes will be available on the NRW website once approved.

The reorganisation within NRW will be completed by July.  The new structure will move from 10 areas down to 6.  There will be more people working on the freshwater environment although there will be no increase in fisheries staff.  There is difficulty in recruiting fisheries staff and there is a lack of experienced fisheries officers in NRW it was suggested that fisheries officers could train other members of their team in fisheries issues. 

Mark Lloyd updated how the Virtual Bailiff scheme is working in England, there are 500 volunteers carrying out patrols (7/8 are ex police officers) but Mark emphasised that this was a ‘hands off’ operation feeding intelligence to the EA and Police.  Mark considers this has worked well and it is feasible to extend this to Wales.

The head of Inland Fisheries (Jeremy Frost) for WG either resigned or retired at the end of April, this seems to have been unexpected and Luke Davies is now covering this role for WG until a successor is found. 

Membership of the Forum was discussed and to keep the numbers to a manageable size it was suggested that existing members liaise with their local LFG’s and represent them at future meetings.  This is already happening in North and South Wales but it was recognised that West Wales did not have any contacts on the forum.  It was suggested that a member from the Carmarthenshire Fisheries Federation be invited to join the group.  It was also suggested that Welsh Water become a member.

  • Area Statements

John Clark presented an overview of the area statements which are an EU requirement and has now replaced the River Basin management plans.  The plan is to have the area statements completed by March 2020.  The area statements are The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR 2) which is the Assessment of the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources within Wales this includes requirements under the Water Framework Directive.  Mark Lloyd questioned if this was just ‘re-packaging’ of the existing system to make it look as if there is progress being made.  John Clark said there would be local workshops held as happened with the river basin management plans and that SoNaRR 2 would be web based along the lines used in an Australian portal on the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR).

  • Fisheries Local Inquiry – feedback and commitments made

Peter Gough went through the costs of the inquiry (£350K plus!) and explained that the inspector had set a deadline of issuing his report on or before the 17 May.  The report will be issued to the Minister and it is unclear if those objecting will receive a copy prior to the Minister making a decision.

The Fish Eating Birds (FEB’s) Advisory group has prepared a paper and the NRW Executive Team has approved this with some amendments (we did not have copies of this paper).  It seems that there is a concern that there is no evidence base on the damage done by FEB’s so it seems unlikely that there will be any immediate action on controlling FEB’s while a formal study is carried out, as FEB’s only eat fish how much more evidence do they need!  The paper will be present to WG once it has been approved by the NRW Board at the May Board meeting.

There have been 16 rivers surveyed and plans produced as part of the River Restoration project which is being carried out by Rivers trusts in Wales via Afonydd Cymru.  The survey reports and work program will be made public via the NRW website.  Reports are mainly pictorial i.e. photographs showing the areas needing attention.  I had been asked by the Dee LFG to raise the issue of the lack of visibility about the River Restoration project and that more needs to be done to engage stakeholders.  As rivers Trusts are undertaking this work on behalf of NRW it is for the Trusts to communicate with stakeholders.

Items for discussion

  • Fisheries Strategy

Members were asked for their feedback on the strategy paper.  The most significant comments were there is now no longer a dedicated fisheries department within NRW.  It was also noted that this was a ‘fisheries strategy’ document which did not make reference to fishing and it was more of a vital nature diversity strategy.  It was also noted that the strategy only dealt with ‘wild fish’ and there was nothing about stocked fisheries or sea fishing.  I asked if WG were committed to promoting fishing in Wales and pointed out that the perception is that WG are only interested in promoting adventure activity on our rivers and consider anglers as blocking the WG wish for open access.  A sub group will be formed to progress the strategy.

  • Stock assessment 2018

The two papers on sea trout and salmon stocks were discussed.  The picture remains much the same primarily due to the way NRW applies statistical analysis it should be noted that in the majority of cases the status is declared as ‘uncertain’ i.e. it is just a best guess.  PG explained that NRW had engaged with CEFAS to review the present statistical model due to the uncertainty of the results they produce, this review may be due to the challenge we made at the inquiry about the methodology. 

  • Wales land management Forum

The strategy on future land management will be presented to the NRW Board at the May Board meeting.  It remains to be seen if the promised reforms will be implemented and even if they are this will be some time in the future – too little too late!

  • Angling promotion update

Mark Lloyd updated the group and explained that AT had received a grant of £100K from Visit Wales and £30K from NRW to promote fishing in Wales.  This will be via a web based system which will list all of the available fishing within Wales this will include Coarse/Sea/Game fishing with contact details for clubs etc.  There will also be a Social media link so that anglers can post their experience of fishing in Wales (good or bad) but Mark said that the posts would be subject moderation.  In 2020 it is apparently the ‘Year of the Outdoors’ and this will be a good platform to promote fishing in Wales with a link to the WUF Fishing passport scheme, clubs in Wales should be encouraged to sign up to the passport scheme or at least ensure that their information is included in the AT database.

  • Items for information

There was a short discussion on invasive species and angling Pathway Action Plans (PAP’s) this is directed at recreational anglers to prevent the transfer of disease and invasive species and it is hoped that anglers will sign up to check/clean/dry their equipment.  I pointed out that this must also apply to paddlesport.

There was a quick update on the proposed Tidal Lagoons with NRW remodelling the environmental impact using new parameters.  The general impression was that at this time Tidal lagoons are too costly to proceed.

A hydro power briefing note was handed out I have attached a copy of this.

It seems that Thames Water wants to take surplus water from Lake Vyrnwy using the Vyrnwy and Severn as conduits for most of the distance before diverting the water into the head waters of the Thames.  Apparently this idea has been ongoing for several years but seems to be gaining momentum.

  • Any Other Business

Mark Lloyd and Rachel Evans raised the access issue following the statement by Hannah Bythyn AM that if there are no improvements in voluntary access agreements in the next 18 months WG will legislate for open access.  This is a direct threat to fishing activity in Wales and I pointed out that it will have significant environmental consequences as adventure activity is only interested in profit and will contribute nothing to the management of the environment.

Rachel is prepared to deal with this issue on behalf of anglers and riparian owners but needs as much information on VAA’s offered and rejected as possible to counter the belief that anglers and riparian owners are blocking VAA’s.

The next meeting will be in November and will probably be held in Carmarthen.

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