Comments on the National salmon Strategy Document.
I visited the National Rivers Authorities salmonoid Conference in October 2006 and picked up a leaflet entitled “Delivering better salmon fisheries”. Please find some of my observations below which I hope will contribute to the return of many more salmon to rivers in England and Wales.
On reading the document that I picked up at the national Rivers Authority Conference in October 2006 I notice that there is much detail but no real clear strategy that is easy to make sense of. Perhaps an overseeing body needs to re assess the collaborative goals for all those agencies and individuals who have a vested interest in seeing the salmon return in abundance to the rivers of England and Wales. A vision of the future needs to articulated by a leading agency that can pull efforts into one goal. England’s problems with salmon are different form the challenges faced in Scotland Wales and Ireland where there is a much greater environmental impact from Urbanisation.
Sustainable surplus is often talked about as a management goal. In England and Wales (and Scotland and Ireland) many rivers will not have a sustainable surplus. Therefore it would make sense to pursue a strategy that in the long term, say 10 years, facilitated maximum stocks with abundance beyond set conservation limits and an excessive surplus. How else can Wild Atlantic salmon be enabled to colonise and re colonise habitat to a maximum level. Sustainable yields should only be talked about when the river is “full” of returning spawning adult fish.
However if fishing is halted completely there is no incentive to drive a strategy forward.
In England it may be fair to suggest that the challenges are predominately urban in nature. That represents a huge resource to tap into, business and communities with huge numbers of people. The real challenge is to channel and manage the desire for a better environment that includes clean rivers and streams to support salmonoids in big numbers. The impact of salmon on coastal communities around the coast line will also need consideration and commercial fishing discouraged to facilitate river abundance. When anglers are happy catching a good surplus and stocks are healthy there may be a case for conservative commercial exploitation at sea. Anglers can be the custodians of the river habitat and are often the first to notice problems with low fish stocks. Angling clubs could be utilised to play a vital role in driving a salmon agenda and protecting the habitat and environment that provides their sport.
There are many interested parties. It should not be assumed that England or Wales can go it alone. From Greenland, Faeroes, Iceland, to the head waters of the Wye or Tyne there are vast numbers of people who would like to see many more salmon in the rivers and experience the benefits that would provide. That includes the value of the fish themselves and the other immeasurable benefits to the environment a communities. The salmon will be grateful for the support of the wealthy but the less wealthy should also be allowed to participate in conservation and fishery development. One man’s pence are another mans pound so it will be important to target different groups in different ways. A vital cog in the wheel will be to drive communication, education and participation. There is a case for premier, first and second class angling rivers where second class provides good sport and catches of Wild Atlantic Salmon at a reduced rate. I would like to think that young lads and lassies could learn the art of angling and steward a fish resource from their local stream.
A certainty that most will agree on is that stocks too low generally. The Tyne the Wye, The Dee and many others have great scope to produce huge runs of salmon and sae trout. There are many more that currently are not as productive and a separate strategy to improve the habitat of that smaller stream could be abundantly beneficial.
The stories and plans that we hear about Tyne, Humber Mersey Thames are very exciting. There may be a need to separate the funding mechanisms into Urban and Rural schemes. Rural areas often attract big money and the potential in urban settings to involve huge numbers of people, as stewards of their great local resource is vast. Who is interested in doing their bit to protect the local environment?
There are many independent bodies working to achieve particular strategies but the best way forward will involve collaboration, communication, involvement and leadership to ignite a real desire to improve the state of rivers in general. We owe to ourselves to value our future natural living resources and to improve natural assets that can add value to tomorrow and future generations.
I am encouraged by the level of interest demonstrated in the piece Delivering Better Salmon Fisheries but am reminded of an old anagram K.I.S.S. I was once taught.
19 Swanston Gardens