River Wye (England) Rod and Line Salmon and Sea Trout Byelaws 2021

Closed 1 Oct 2021

Opened 1 Sep 2021

Overview

This is the statutory consultation on proposed new regulations that are designed to protect salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Wye in England.

The current byelaws which implement catch and release on the River Wye for all salmon and sea trout caught at all times, are due to expire on 31 December 2021. This could end any requirement to release rod caught salmon and sea trout in the River Wye.

These byelaws need to be renewed and updated to ensure that stocks continue to be adequately protected. This is to ensure that those fisheries that continue to exploit these stocks do so in a sustainable manner to support stock recovery as quickly as possible.

We recognise the need for a fully integrated approach for our border rivers and we are working together with the Natural Resources Wales (NRW), to ensure that this happens in a practical and sensible way.

Under an agreement between Environment Agency and NRW, NRW takes the fisheries management lead for matters relating to migratory fish in the cross-border catchment of the River Wye (as does Environment Agency for the cross-border River Severn) even though the legal responsibility for fisheries management follows the political/geographical boundary. This is to ensure an integrated approach in each river.

The most recent assessment of our salmon stocks indicates that the Wye stock is ‘At Risk’ of failing to achieve management objectives (in 2020), and predicted to be ‘Probably at Risk’ in five years’ time (in 2025).

Furthermore, the status of salmon as a designated feature of the Wye Special Area of Conservation is classed as unfavourable.

The most recent assessment produced by NRW of sea trout stocks indicates that the Wye stock is currently ‘Probably At Risk’ of failing to meet its conservation limits, and predicted to still be as such in five years’ time.

What are we consulting on?

This is the statutory consultation on proposed new regulations that are designed to protect salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Wye in England:

River Wye Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (England) Byelaws 2021;

This consultation runs for one month from 1 September until 1 October 2021.

Note that this consultation only refers to the River Wye in England, with consultation responses made to the Environment Agency.

NRW is consulting separately on their proposals for the River Wye in Wales, and responses on that consultation, which started in July 2021 and will run for 12 weeks, must be directed to the Natural Resources Wales.

Fisheries Byelaws Consultation 2021 - River Usk and River Wye in Wales - Natural Resources Wales Citizen Space - Citizen Space (cyfoethnaturiol.cymru)

Our proposals

We are seeking representations to proposed new byelaws for rod fishing for salmon and sea trout the River Wye in England. These byelaws, if confirmed, would run until 31 December 2029, and be synchronised with the end of the existing ‘Cross Border’ byelaws.

River Wye

Salmon

  • Statutory catch and release fishing at all times.
  • Salmon fishing season to run from 3 March to 17 October for the whole of the River Wye and all the tributaries of the River Wye.

Sea trout

  • Statutory catch and release fishing at all times.

 

The Environment Agency has worked alongside NRW on the preparation of a Technical Case and the new rod fishing byelaws for the Wye to ensure there are equivalent byelaws for the Wye in both Wales and England. This would ensure a consistent catchment approach for this cross-border river.

NRW has produced the Technical Case [documents available in the related documents section at the bottom of this webpage] that reviews the status of salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Wye and recommends the introduction of appropriate fishery regulations, which reflect the current stock risk status, and are required to protect the reproductive capacity of these stocks.

The Environment Agency has reviewed this case, agrees with its findings and conclusions and has adopted this Technical Case for the purpose of this consultation.

Downloadable copies of the Executive Summary and the sealed byelaws are available in the related documents section at the bottom of this webpage, together with NRW's Technical Case. We strongly urge you to consider these when responding to the consultation.

For those unable to access the internet to view this webpage, they can call 03708 506 506 to request a copy of the information be posted or emailed. The byelaws can be viewed at our office in Tewkesbury (Riversmeet House, Newtown Industrial Estate, Northway Lane, Tewkesbury GL20 8JG).

Consultation responses

There is a link below to an online survey. 

Here you can submit your response using our online tool which will enable you to manage your comments more effectively. It will also help us to gather and summarise responses quickly and accurately as well as reduce the costs of the consultation.

If you would prefer to submit your response by email, please use the following email address: freshwater.fish@defra.gov.uk Please also send a copy of your response to SevernSalmon@environment-agency.gov.uk

If you prefer to submit your response in writing, please use the following address: Migratory & Freshwater Fisheries (Salmon Byelaws), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.  

More Information

THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

WATER RESOURCES ACT 1991

THE RIVER WYE ROD AND LINE (SALMON AND SEA TROUT) (ENGLAND) BYELAWS 2021

The Environment Agency in exercise of its powers under section 210 of, and paragraph 6(1)(b), 6(2)(aa) and 6(2)(c) of Schedule 25 to, the Water Resources Act 1991 make the following byelaws.

Byelaw 1 – Title

These Byelaws may be cited as the River Wye Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (England) Byelaws 2021.

Byelaw 2 – Application and Exemption

  1. These Byelaws will apply to the River Wye and its tributaries save where expressly stated.
  1. These Byelaws shall not apply to any employee of the Environment Agency acting in their official capacity or to any person who, with the permission in writing of the Environment Agency and acting in accordance with any conditions attached to that permission, carries out work connected with the maintenance, improvement or development of fisheries or for scientific purposes.
  1. These Byelaws shall expire on 31 December 2029.

Byelaw 3 – Interpretation

In these Byelaws unless the context otherwise requires:

“River Wye” means the area of the natural catchment of the River Wye and of all watercourses draining or flowing, directly or indirectly, into it, which are within England;

“the Rod and Line Byelaws 1995” means the Byelaws regulating fishing by means of rod and line and making certain general provisions relating to fishery matters made by the National Rivers Authority Welsh Region and confirmed on 1 September 1994;

“salmon” means both species Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and Pink salmon (Onchrynchus gorbuscha);

“sea trout” means any migratory (anadromous) form of the species Salmo trutta which are commonly known as sea trout (migratory trout) or sewin and also includes part of a sea trout.

Except as provided above, or where the context otherwise requires, all words and expressions used in these Byelaws shall have the meaning assigned to them by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, the Water Resources Act 1991 and Environment Act 1995 or any statutory modifications or re-enactment thereof.

Byelaw 4 - Catch and release with rod and line (salmon and sea trout)

  1. Subject to the provisions contained with existing fisheries byelaws affecting the River Wye, any person who removes any live or dead salmon or sea trout taken by rod and line in the River Wye without the previous written authority of the Environment Agency shall be guilty of an offence.
  1. This byelaw shall not apply to any person who lawfully takes a salmon or sea trout and returns it immediately to the water with the least possible injury.

Byelaw 5 – Close season

Sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) of Byelaw 3 of the Rod and Line Byelaws 1995 entitled “The Annual Close Season for Salmon (Rod and Line)” are substituted with —

“(b) In that part of the River Wye below Llanwrthwl bridge the period between 17 October and 3 March following.

(c) In all the tributaries of the River Wye and in that part of the River Wye above Llanwrthwl bridge, the period between 17 October and 3 March following.

.

More Information

The

The Technical Case document [available below - Technical case supporting a public consultation on proposals for new fishing controls to protect salmon and sea trout stocks on the River Usk and the River Wye. NRW 2021]  reviews the status of salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Wye and recommends the introduction of appropriate fishery regulations, which reflect the current stock risk status, and are required to protect the reproductive capacity of these stocks. This document summarises the Technical Case produced by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as it applies to the River Wye and its tributaries in England .

The proposed byelaws would replace the current byelaws which will expire on 31 December 2021 mandating the release of all rod caught salmon and sea trout on the Wye that have been in place since 2012..

If new byelaws are not put in place for the 2022 season onwards, then there would be reduced protection of the vulnerable salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Wye. In evaluating management options, conservation and sustainability of the salmon and sea trout resources should take precedence. The proposals are also set in the context of maximising spawning escapement and promoting stock recovery towards improved resilience and sustainability. The proposals would, if confirmed and implemented, see byelaws requiring statutory catch-and-release (C&R) fishing for all salmon and sea trout caught by rod and line on the River Wye and its tributaries in England.

Following the establishment of NRW in 2012, it was agreed through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between NRW and the Environment Agency that lead responsibility for the management of migratory salmonid stocks and fisheries within the Wye would sit with NRW. The Environment Agency would continue to take the lead for the management of migratory salmonid stocks and fisheries within the River Severn Estuary and River Severn catchment. However this MoU does not affect the Environment Agency’s legal responsibilities for all fishery management matters in England.

The Environment Agency and NRW collaborate closely with respect to the management and regulation of all migratory salmonid fisheries operating within the Cross Border river catchments (Dee and Wye and the River Severn) to ensure a consistent catchment approach.

With respect to the River Wye it was agreed that NRW would take the lead in developing a suite of rod and line fishing protective measures and the Technical Case to support the need for the proposed rod and line protection measures within this river catchment. The Environment Agency would undertake a complementary consultation process for the same byelaw measures to ensure that there was a consistent suite of measures applied to the whole catchment within England and Wales.

The Environment Agency is now seeking views on its proposals.

The Technical Case describes the status of stocks in the River Wye, considers issues around the exploitation of salmon and sea trout stocks and sets out the options for sustainable management.

Salmon and sea trout stocks are in parlous state across many rivers catchments in England and Wales. The need for these byelaw proposals reflects the status of salmon stocks in the Wye which are assessed annually against the Conservation Limits. In 2020 the provisional stock assessment is now ‘At risk’ for the River Wye with a predicted probability of being ‘Probably at Risk’ in 5 years’ time based on the salmon stock statuses of 2020. This evidence emerging from the salmon stock assessments indicates a continued decline in the status of salmon in the River Wye, with substantial deficits in the number of spawning adults apparent in the Wye and neighbouring rivers such as the rivers Severn and Usk. Allowing salmon to be killed would lead to the clear likelihood of harm to these salmon populations continuing.

Salmon is a species listed under Annex 2 of the EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) and currently contributes to the designations of the Usk and Wye as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). At the last report by the UK in 2019 the status of Atlantic salmon was reported as Unfavourable-Inadequate, because both population and future prospects were assessed as inadequate.

Both salmon and sea trout are listed as UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority species. Both are therefore currently regarded as most threatened and requiring conservation action.

Evidence

Provided within the NRA Technical Case 3 principal sources of evidence have been considered in concluding a preferred option for management change:

  1. The status of adult stocks of salmon and sea trout in both rivers
  2. The status of juvenile salmon and trout stocks in both rivers
  3. The status of salmon as a designated feature of the Wye SAC.

Salmon

The most recent assessment of stocks indicates that the Wye is ‘At Risk’ of failing to achieve the management objectives (in 2020), and predicted to be ‘Probably at Risk’ in 5 years’ time (in 2025). Based on average egg deposition levels over the last 5-years (2016-2020), the Wye has recorded deficits against the indicative Management Targets of 24.52 million eggs. This deficit approximates to 8,175 8lb fish equivalents.

The status of salmon as designated features of the Wye SAC was ‘unfavourable’ in the most recently published round of Condition Assessments (Milner et al, 2013), driven largely by poor adult runs.

Sea Trout

The most recent assessment of our sea trout stocks indicates that the Wye stock is currently ‘Probably At Risk’ of failing to meet its conservation limits and predicted to still be as such in 5 years’ time.

Juvenile Salmonids 

Since 2015 there has been a decline in fry across the catchment with especially poor recruitment in 2016. Returning adult salmon numbers have been low in 2019 and 2020, although some uncertainty remains as to whether this can be wholly attributed to the 2015/2016 recruitment failure.

Whilst the 2015/16 recruitment failure was significant on neighbouring rivers such as the Usk and evident on the Wye, it was not as severe, and some recovery has been seen since. However, the juvenile salmon population on the Wye has been below average in recent years and remains of concern.

Salmon Stock Assessment for 2020 

The numbers of adult salmon returning to spawn in a river each year, and hence the number of eggs deposited, are estimated and compared against the Conservation Limit (CL). The CL is the lowest desirable spawning stock level of spawning salmon (described as the number of salmon eggs deposited) for each river. The size of a stock should not be

allowed to fall below the CL, otherwise the risk of that river’s salmon stock suffering serious decline greatly increases.

Because salmon stocks naturally vary from year to year, the Environment Agency and NRW aims to ensure that a stock meets its CL in at least four out of five years on average (i.e. >80% of the time); this is the Management Objective (MO). To meet this MO, the average level of a stock typically needs to be approximately 40% above the CL. This higher target level is referred to as the Management Target (MT). Stocks are therefore classified according to whether, on the basis of the trend over the past 10 years, they are likely to meet the MO in five years’ time.

Key

Figure 1 River Wye salmon spawning compliance assessment 2020

The River Wye has not achieved its salmon Management Objective (MO) for a number of years. In 2019 the reported rod catch was only 348 salmon, the second lowest rod catch recorded for the Wye (lowest was in 1992 at 320 salmon). The rod catch was higher in 2020; 607 salmon were caught. The overall catch of salmon within the Wye rod fishery has declined substantially over the past few decades. Consequently in figure 1 it is evident that the stock has failed to achieve the conservation limit again in 2020, resulting in a provisional assessment of “At Risk” of failing the MO. With a declining trend the stock is projected to be “Probably At Risk” in five years’ time.

Table 1 Summary of salmon stock status on the Rivers Usk and Wye: provisional assessment results for 2020

Salmon and sea trout rod catches

The overall catch of salmon within the Wye rod fishery has declined substantially over the past few decades. Although a similar decline is reported for most salmon rivers in England and Wales, the decline in the Wye salmon catch has perhaps been more pronounced, possibly due to factors affecting the characteristic spring run of the Wye and its other multi-sea-winter salmon, together with the historic relative small run of grilse in the river.

Over the past half century, annual catches of salmon on the Wye have declined to a fraction of their peak in the 1960s, when annual catches often exceeded 5,000 salmon (figure 2). As recently as 1990, the rolling 5-year average catch was still about 3,500, however the catch fell substantially after this time to as few as 320 salmon in 1992. The catch showed tentative signs of a small recovery from about 2011 when the subsequent annual average catch exceeded 1,000 salmon until 2017. However, catches in 2018 - 2020 are amongst the lowest catches recorded on the river.

Based on assessments at the time, indicating salmon stocks in the Wye to be ‘At Risk’ with no evident trend of improvement, byelaws were introduced in 2011 by Environment Agency which prohibited the taking of any salmon or sea trout on the river. These came into force on the 1 January 2012.

Figure 2 Salmon rod catch on the River Wye since 1940

Recent indications from the Wye riparian owners’ rod catch data of 2021 already suggest another poor start to the season, which correlates with the assessment and the continued failure to meet minimum biological safe levels and reduces likelihood of meeting management objectives in 5 years’ time.

Juvenile salmon and trout stock status 

There has been an overall downwards trend in densities of both salmon fry and parr in the Wye catchment, despite spikes in fry density in the late 1990s and in 2011 (Figure 3).

As seen in catchments elsewhere in England and Wales, salmon fry numbers in the Wye in 2016 were considerably lower than in recent years, although similar to those of 2007 (approximately half of the 5-year average catchment density). However, there were none of the widespread absences of fry or reduced spatial distribution noted in the Usk catchment. These poor fry numbers are seen to have tracked through into the parr numbers in 2017.

The salmon fry and parr populations have recovered somewhat since 2016, but numbers for the catchment remain low with a 5-year average of just 48 fry per 100m2.

Figure 3 Catchment average densities of salmon in the Wye since 1985.

There is little evidence of a trend in trout fry numbers in the Wye, however the long-term trend in parr is downwards, driven by higher average densities prior to 1997; numbers have stabilised since then (Figure 4).

The fry recruitment concerns noted in 2016 for salmon fry and parr do not appear to have had such an impact on the trout populations, with fry numbers only being about 10% lower than the 5-year average and no impact noted in parr populations.

Figure 4 Catchment average densities of brown trout in the Wye since 1985.

Management Options

The management options are those that are that are presented within the NRW Technical Case, the Environment Agency have considered the following principal options:-

  1. Do nothing further, allowing the current catch and release byelaws on the River Wye fisheries to lapse on 31 December 2021.
  2. Maintain current C&R restrictions (100% mandatory C&R for salmon and sea trout on the Wye; maintain fishing method restrictions).
  3. Maintain current C&R restrictions and introduce additional measures. Maintain catch and release measures; alter fishing method restrictions and / or seasons.
  4. Closure of the rod fisheries, resulting in negative socio-economic impacts.
  5. Further options around season dates and method restrictions have also been considered and are detailed later in the Technical Case.

We conclude that:

Option 2 is required for sea trout on the Wye;

Option 3 is required for salmon on the Wye.

 

Summary of proposed byelaws

Given the current status of the Wye salmon stocks and the continuing trends that are supported by those data presented in the NRW Technical Case it is clear that current restrictions on the killing and survival of salmon need to be maintained to rod fisheries in order to protect these stocks.

We are proposing to seek confirmation of new byelaws for rod fishing on the River Wye in England. We propose the following measures to run until 31 December 2029, a date selected to synchronise dates with the period of the ‘Cross Border’ byelaws that were implemented in 2020.

 

River Wye (England)

  1. Salmon
  • Statutory catch and release fishing at all times.
  • Salmon fishing season to run from 3 March to 17 October for the whole of the River Wye and all the tributaries of the River Wye.
  1. Sea trout
  • Statutory catch and release fishing at all times.

 

There is no real recognised sea trout fishery on the Wye, any captures being an accidental bycatch. The introduction of mandatory catch and release of sea trout, whilst helping to conserve the few sea trout that are caught, is aimed primarily at eliminating the risk of misidentifying fish, leading to the inadvertent or deliberate killing of salmon. Sea trout C&R measures have now been in place on the Wye for 10 years and are widely accepted by the angling community.

The key aim of C&R angling is to ensure that individual fish, once they have been caught and released back to the river, survive to contribute to the fish stock by successfully spawning. Implicit in C&R is the assumption that fish experience low rates of mortality and minimal sub-lethal effects and that consequently, they demonstrate high rates of survival. This was the basis for the inclusion of method restrictions in the ‘all Wales’ and ‘cross border’ byelaws (England) and (Wales) 2017.

Even relatively small numbers of fish could be crucial in order to aid recovery of stocks. There would be accumulated benefits over time. It is therefore essential that spawning stocks are maximized if populations are to have the best chance of recovery.

There is a range of factors that contribute to the decline of salmon and sea trout. It is recognised that anglers are not the primary cause of declining stocks, but in the current context of the severity of the depletion of the stocks, the killing of fish is considered to be unsustainable and to contribute to the problem. Anglers must therefore be part of the solution.

NRW has under taken liaison and discussion with Environment Agency regarding the River Wye, where NRW takes the management lead for diadromous fish stock management, have resulted in agreement that NRW and Environment Agency will seek a single integrated approach to fishery regulation with equivalent byelaws applying in respect of the English and Welsh parts of the river.

NRW has lead, with support from the Environment Agency, a series of engagement events with our stakeholder groups on prospective new control measures through focussed meetings with the Wye Local Fisheries Group which include rivers trusts representatives. There was good attendance with views and opinions of the groups on stock status and the potential need for new byelaw measures were sought and debated.

There was unanimous support for reinstating catch and release measures for salmon and sea trout on the Wye. The Environment Agency has evaluated other suggestions made by stakeholders, including amendments to fishing seasons within the Technical Case which we propose to take forward the extension to the end of the season on the upper Wye and tributaries.

These proposals are being taken forward as the existing byelaws expire on the 31 December 2021. These proposals therefore amount to betterment in comparison to a scenario of no regulation. The proposals are also set in the context of maximising spawning escapement and promoting stock recovery towards improved resilience and sustainability.

References

Natural Resources Wales; Technical case supporting a public consultation on proposals for new fishing controls to protect salmon and sea trout stocks on the River Usk and the River Wye; 2021.

Natural Resources Wales; The River Wye Rod and Line (Salmon and Sea Trout) (Wales) Byelaws 2021

Milner, N., Fraser, D., Webb, H., Lawrie, K., and McDermott, T. (2013). Condition Assessments of Atlantic Salmon in Welsh SAC Rivers 2007-2012. CCW Contract Science Report No. 988.

Why your views matter

We want your views on our proposals, and also any relevant evidence that might support a need to modify the proposed measures that we consider are necessary to protect salmon and sea trout stocks.

We want to hear your thoughts on our salmon and sea trout stock assessments, the status of salmon stocks and our proposed byelaws to protect stocks. Please provide evidence that you believe is relevant to justify any comments you make, and which may justify the need to modify, strengthen or relax the proposed measures.

If you wish to provide further evidence to support your response here, please email this to us at severnsalmon@environment- agency.gov.uk and include your unique ID (supplied at the end of the consultation).

What happens next

All Consultation responses will be acknowledged and a response to questions will be provided. All consultation responses will be collated and forwarded to DEFRA, along with responses provided to questions, at the end of the consultation period for due consideration.

DEFRA will advise if alterations to the proposed regulations are required, or will recommend that the Fisheries Minister approves the proposed regulations for immediate implementation.

The Environment Agency will look to make all responses publicly available during and after the consultation, unless you have specifically requested that we keep your response confidential.

We will not publish names of individuals who respond, but we will publish the name of the organisation for those responses made on behalf of organisations.

If you respond online or provide us with an email address, we will acknowledge your response. After the consultation has closed a summary of the responses will be published on our website.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we may be required to publish your response to this consultation, but will not include any personal information. If you have requested your response to be kept confidential, we may still be required to provide a summary of it.

Audiences

  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Fishing clubs and representative associations
  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • Academics
  • Environment Agency customers
  • Net fishing license holders
  • River based salmon angling owners/fishing clubs/organisations
  • Individual migratory salmonid licence holders
  • Business that buy salmon/supported by salmon net and rod fishing
  • Angling trade contacts
  • National based fishery, conservation and landowner organisations
  • Government family organisations

Interests

  • Business and industry
  • Fishing and boating
  • Habitats and wildlife