Tim reports: I have just received my copy of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) annual assessment of salmon stocks for 2010. My comments follow:
a.Licenses. (1)Rods a little down from 2009: 27,108 to 26,022. However short term licences were up from 8,729 to 9,705.(2)Net licences were virtually unchanged at 275. The offshore NE drift net fishery recorded 14 licenses, 1 down from 2009.
b.Catch.(1)Rods: The provisional catch in 2010, including released fish, was up from 15,184 to 23,763. Catches of both grilse and MSW salmon were well above the previous 5-year average. Declared rod catches have, since 2004, typically been above the long-term average, with catches at levels not recorded since the late 1980s. It should, however, be noted that catches since 1993 include an increasing proportion of fish that have been caught and released. River flows in 2010 were below average for most of the year. Flows were particularly low in May, June and December, but closer to average levels in the period July to November, coinciding with the period of peak activity (and catches) for rod fisheries. Since the introduction of the national measures to protect spring salmon in 1999, anglers have been releasing a greater proportion of all fish caught, and of large salmon in particular. Releases were 14,103 fish representing 59% of the catch. Adult counts and returning stock estimates in 2010 were better than those in 2009 in almost all monitored rivers and were above average in many cases. Runs into freshwater over available time series show a decreasing trend on some rivers (Frome and Hampshire Avon), no substantive change on a few (e.g. Dee and Test), but an increase on others (Tees, Fowey and Lune).(2)Nets: These were up from 7,443 to 22,634, double the average of the past 5 years and the highest number in the last 15 years. The NE fisheries overall accounted for 88% of the national net catch.
c.Unreported and illegal catches. These were estimated to be around 20 tonnes which represents 15% of the total weight of salmon caught and killed. This is a significant increase of 8 tonnes from last year but a lower percentage figure. The estimate is broken down as follows:(1)51% illegally caught.(2)41% unreported rod catches.(3)8% unreported net catches.
d.Ban on sale of rod caught fish. This came into force in 2009. At the same time all net caught fish were required to be carcass tagged. The carcass tagging and logbook scheme operated successfully in 2009, with no substantiated evidence of legitimately issued tags being used to market rod or illegally caught fish and no evidence of illegally caught fish during market inspections. Of the 60,800 carcass tags issued, almost 98% were accounted for, the majority either reported used on salmon and sea trout (64%) or returned at the end of the season (34%). Surveys completed in 2009 indicated a high level of awareness among fishmongers and the wider catering industry, and that the measures were generally supported among the catering trade. Feedback from netsmen was also generally supportive, both in terms of the aims and implementation of the new scheme.
e.Composition of catches.
(1)Nets: Small salmon 41%. Large salmon 59%, no change from 2009.(2)Rods: Grilse 73%, MSW salmon 27%, a very slight change from last season.
f.Spawning escapement. In 2010 this was estimated to be above the conservation limit in 38 of the 64 principal salmon rivers in England and Wales. This is a good increase from 21 rivers in 2009. Formal compliance assessment in 2010 indicated that almost 40% of the 64 rivers were classified as ‘not at risk’ or ‘probably not at risk’.
g.Red Vent Syndrome. Salmon with swollen and/or bleeding vents continued to be observed in 2010. Trapping programmes on monitored rivers indicate that the prevalence of RVS increased markedly in 2006 and has remained at similar levels since then.
Having received and analysed the CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science) Lowestoft Laboratory “Annual Assessment of Salmon Stocks and Fisheries in England and Wales 2009”, we welcome the accuracy and detail which CEFAS put into their annual report and commend them for their continuing valuable work in this regard. We are extremely heartened by the considerable increase in catches for rods but remain concerned by the large take by the North East nets which, after all, are fishing in a mixed stock environment. However we are interested that CEFAS does not give any significant reasons for the increase in salmon runs during the reporting period. The ban on the sale of rod caught fish and carcase tagging of salmon came into force in 2009. The scheme appears to be working well, which is extremely good news.