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Salmon fishing faces a possible ban in Wales

Plans from Natural Resources Wales to end salmon fishing in Welsh rivers have been criticised by anglers for overlooking alternatives

Anglers are up in arms over the proposal, but NRW says any ban would be a “last resort”

A proposal by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to ban all salmon fishing in Welsh rivers — and the English stretch of the Wye — has been described, by local anglers, as a last-ditch desperate attempt to cover up 20 years of failed policies.

The closure is suggested in a paper written by NRW, which has been criticised for overlooking alternatives such as the reopening of a conservation hatchery and for calling for more research into the cause of the problem.

One well-known local fisherman, Geoff Franks of the River Wye Gillies Association, told Shooting Times: “I’ve fished this river for over 65 years and I could cry now. Everything is going downhill. I’m selling my tackle.

“For 40 years the Environment Agency has produced a stream of scientists who come down and pontificate, when the answer is plain. We started a small pond hatchery at one
point, which was having success restocking the river, but we were ordered to close it down. We were told the emphasis had to be on restoring the habitat, and that when that was done the fish would come. This year we have caught 79 fish on the river in total; when I started we would land 1,000 by the end of March. It is intolerable.”

The chairman of the Wye Salmon Association, Stuart Smith, added: “The rate of decline in salmon numbers in Welsh rivers and the Wye is so alarming that, by the time new research findings are ready, the species will be extinct.

“NRW has totally failed to achieve anything positive over salmon decline in the Wye and many other Welsh salmon rivers since its formation in 2013 when it took over the primary management of the Wye from the Environment Agency.” 

Ben Wilson, principal fisheries adviser for NRW, said any ban would be a “last resort”. 

“The report was commissioned by NRW to better understand the risks that salmon face and how we may be able to address them,” said Mr Wilson. “The report authors rightly suggest that measures be taken to address all known sources of additional mortality, and they include fishing pressure as one of those.”