The Countryside Alliance has raised concerns about the Environment Agency’s proposal to introduce a mandatory catch and release policy for salmon fishing in some rivers in England.

The proposal is part of a series of measures being consulted on by the Environment Agency with the aim of increasing salmon stocks, which in many parts of the country remain very low.

The mandatory catch and release policy would apply to rivers that are predicted to be “at risk” in 2021 which are the: Lune, Ribble, Tees, Crake, Dorset Stour, Yealm, Cumbrian Derwent, Plym, Wyre and Calder. The policy would be introduced by making changes to the salmon and sea trout protection byelaws which would come into force in June 2018.

The Countryside Alliance has objected to any mandatory policy being introduced this year on account of the fact that many anglers have already purchased their rod licence for this season and fisheries and clubs will need time to adjust to any changes to the byelaws. The Alliance has also raised concerns about the impact that any mandatory approach could have on incentives for conservation work which could have the effect of actually reducing fish stocks even further in these rivers.

The Countryside Alliance has welcomed other measures announced by the Environment Agency, including the proposal to extend the prohibition on the use of netting to catch spring salmon stocks for a further 10 years and new restrictions on the use of netting which are long overdue.

Countryside Alliance Political Relations Manager, James Somerville-Meikle, commented: “We all want to see healthy salmon stocks in English rivers; the question is how this should be achieved. We have always said that responsible anglers are not the cause of the problem and in many cases the time and money invested by people who fish have helped to slow and reverse the decline of fish stocks.

“Many of the rivers included in these proposals are already achieving voluntary catch and release rates of over 90 per cent and it is disappointing that the Environment Agency has decided to ignore these efforts and not given anglers the opportunity to achieve 100 per cent rates voluntarily.”

The Environment Agency will respond to the consultation later in the spring before seeking consent from the Environment Secretary to make any changes to the byelaws.

The Countryside Alliance responses to the consultation questions can be found here.