The AST has responded to the NRW consultation on proposed byelaw changes to catch controls to help protect vulnerable salmon and sea trout stocks and fisheries. As we made clear in our response to the Environment Agency’s consultation on reducing exploitation of salmon in England, we believe that on rivers with threatened salmon stocks (ie rivers that are consistently failing to meet their conservation limits) it is essential to maximise the numbers of salmon that survive to spawn, and so as a matter of principle no potential spawner on such a river should be deliberately killed. In our view the same principle should apply to sea trout, although we accept that the identification of the most threatened stocks is more difficult, given the uncertainties of the current assessment methods. We therefore support the proposed byelaws for both rods and nets, including proposals for mandatory catch and release.
While we appreciate that mandatory catch and release will be unpopular with some anglers, we believe that it would remove any ambiguity about the need to return all salmon and sea trout caught where and when it applied, and would create a level playing field for anglers: efforts by the vast majority to conserve salmon and sea trout would not be undermined by a small minority continuing to kill fish. Mandatory catch and release has worked well for spring salmon and, despite, initial opposition, is now generally accepted.