The Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST) and the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) have welcomed the Government’s decision to close the salmon drift net fishery off the coasts of Northumbria and Yorkshire in 2022, 30 years after the phasing out of this fishery started.
Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon has confirmed, with one change, the North East Coast Net Limitation Order put forward by the Environment Agency.
- Continues the phase out of the salmon drift net fishery started in 1992;
- Extends the phase out to T and J beach nets, after conclusive evidence that these are mixed stock fisheries.
The Minister has also instructed the Agency:
- To close the drift net fishery in 2022;
- To collect evidence and review the possibility of allowing net fisheries to continue in the region where this is consistent with its policy of phasing out mixed stock fisheries;
- To investigate ways of capping total catch levels in these net fisheries via quota and/or effort controls.
Commenting on these decisions, the AST’s Ivor Llewelyn said:
"We are delighted that the Government has finally decided to close the drift net fishery. While we would have preferred an immediate closure, with proper compensation for the netsmen, we realise that this was not likely in the current economic climate. We are also very pleased that the policy of phasing out mixed stock fisheries is being extended to T and J nets and that the Agency has been asked to look into quotas on overall catches. These are both points on which the AST and S&TA have been urging the Government and the Agency to take action.
As conservation organisations we are not opposed to truly sustainable net fisheries, and we look forward to participating in the review that the Agency has been asked to carry out. We will be looking for proposals for sustainable net fisheries to be accompanied by a clear timetable for closing those that are not sustainable."
The S&TA’s Paul Knight added:
"Both the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation organisation (NASCO) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) class mixed stock fisheries (MSFs) - those exploiting fish from more than one river - as bad management practice. Large scale MSFs, which take fish returning to a significant number of different rivers, are internationally recognised as posing a threat to salmon conservation, because they make it impossible to regulate the level of exploitation on individual river stocks. So, what appears to be an acceptable catch level may disguise a dangerously high kill of a particular stock. We are therefore delighted that the Government has gone some way to addressing the fact that only England, Scotland and Norway still prosecute significant numbers of MSFs, and we can once again be seen as taking salmonconservation seriously in England."
Advances in the science of genetics, which have shown that salmon from different rivers, and even from different parts of the same river system, are genetically distinct, have emphasised the importance of managing salmon on a river by river basis. It is for these reasons that it has been Government policy since 1991 to phase out mixed stock fisheries and allow as many fish as possible to return to their rivers of origin.