Current News Items
Symposium castigates authorities for 'neglect' of sea trout stocks
Some of Scotland's sea trout stocks are in danger of being wiped out,
unless the government acts quickly to improve both understanding and management of this elusive form of trout, a a ccording to leading
scientists. The 1st International Sea Trout Symposium took place in Wales last month - and its conclusions make grim reading.
Pointing out that sea trout stocks in certain areas have collapsed the Symposium convenors stated that: "Continued neglect of the science and
management of this species....could threaten yet another valuable natural resource." They called on governments and all stakeholders to stop
taking this species for granted, and act now to protect and conserve stocks. Sea trout fisheries may, according to the Symposium, offer even greater socio-economic benefits than those based on salmon. These shy and elusive fish also represent a 'biological barometer' par excellence in terms of monitoring the health of our ecosystems.
However, the Symposium lambasted current management of sea trout fisheries as "poorly formulated and inadequately protective." Not only are stocks at
risk from illegal fishing and injudicious stocking, but also from the adverse impacts of
marine aquaculture. "We know far less about sea trout than we do about wild Atlantic salmon," commented Sea Trout Group spokesperson Fiona Cameron. "These amazing fish live in our coastal waters rather than travelling to the northern ocean to feed as the salmon do. Yet there are enormous gaps in our knowledge about exactly where they feed, and their territorial ranges."
Even less is known about the precise nature of the biological and environmental triggers which mean that some trout spend their whole lives in fresh
water as brown trout, while others migrate to salt water and become sea trout - though the Symposium heard that great advances are now being made in understanding this process.
"Many of the formerly abundant sea trout fisheries on the north west coast of Scotland and in the Northern Isles have collapsed o o ver recent years," said Ms
Cameron. "While we accept that various environmental factors have contributed to this
situation, we believe that increased infestation of the fish by sea lice from salmon farms is still a majorproblem - and one which it is within our means to control.
"The present situation, where no official body has responsibility for monitoring or policing sea lice management strategy or containment of farmed fish is
unsustainable. A prestigious international Symposium, attended by 150 delegates from 15
countries, has concluded that the record of governments and agencies in protecting sea trout stocks has been lamentable.
"We have major concerns over the impact of sea lice, and also the adverse genetic effect of the large numbers of farmed fish which escape from cages -
more than a third of a million fish in the last year for which there are published statistics. When these escapees find their way into rivers, they can interbreed with wild trout. This can lead to hybridisation which is essentially wasteful, as nearly all of the progeny are sterile.
"It is absolutely necessary that sea cage farming is controlled in a sustainable and accountable way. By doing this, we can lay an essential part of the groundwork to help rebuild wild fish stocks in the areas which have seen the most dramatic decline and promote the revival of valuable traditional fisheries. The Scottish
Executive has the opportunity, in the forthcoming legislation on aquaculture, to show the way ahead in terms of regulating the impact of sea cage fish farms on our native wild fish, particularly sea trout."
Ms Cameron added that the Sea Trout Group endorses the Symposium delegates' callfor substantial allocations of funding for research on sea trout stocks,
and how they can best be managed. "This is one of Scotland's most characteristic and interesting native
fish capable of supporting a lucrative angling sector, and yet we know far less about it than we do about many of our other animals. The sea trout is part of our heritage, and we should do everything within our power to ensure that we know how best to support and conserve stocks," she said.
OTTERS DIE IN POACHER'S NETS
Environment Agency officers have made a sad discovery in Cumbria, following a tip-off from a member of the public.The remains of two dead otters were found caught in nets that had been illegally set in Coniston Water, near Coniston Hall. One had died very recently, and the other had been dead for some time. The Agency believes that the otters, lured by the fish caught in the nets, had become entangled and then drowned while struggling to escape.
The cone-shaped nets, known as fyke nets, are illegal unless licensed by the Agency. Licensed fyke nets are used by commercial fishermen to catch eels, and carry tags that identify their owner and the date the licence was issued. Agency investigations have revealed that the nets were stolen from the licence-holder in 1999.
The nets were probably set to catch eels illegally, and the incident is an unfortunate reminder of the wider environmental damage that poaching can cause. Licensed fyke nets must be fitted with legally-required otter guards, but in this case, the guards had not been properly attached, allowing the unfortunate otters to become trapped.
Cumbria supports one of England's largest and healthiest local otter populations, but tragic incidents like this one are a set-back for conservation and cause for real concern. The Agency believes that four other nets, stolen at the same time as those recovered from Coniston Water, could still be in use, posing a serious threat to other Cumbrian otters. "Although these particular nets had been set illegally, we'd also like to remind licensed fyke net users to double check that otter guards are fitted properly, to prevent otters from gaining access," said John Foster, Fisheries Technical Officer for the Environment Agency in South Cumbria.
"Once otters are caught in the nets, there is no way out for them and sadly, they suffer a slow and distressing death. All licensed fyke nets should also be checked every day, and removed altogether if this isn't possible. As well as the threat to otters and other wildlife, lost and abandoned nets continue to trap fish for years.
"We found many dead fish in the nets at Coniston, some of which had clearly been there for some time. There were also some live fish, which fortunately we were able to release unharmed." The Agency urges anyone who may have information about this incident, the remaining missing nets, or any other fishing offences or environmental crimes, to get in touch by calling its emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. Calls are free and lines are open 24 hours a day.
WHITEHAVEN RESIDENTS URGED TO CHECK PLUMBING
The Environment Agency is urging residents in Whitehaven to check their domestic appliances are correctly plumbed in, following an upsurge in recorded pollution incidents in Whitehaven Harbour.Officials from the Agency and Copeland Borough Council believe that incorrectly fitted toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, and baths may be contributing to high pollution levels in the waters of the Harbour - and threatening the tourist potential of the area accordingly.
The advice follows concern by The Environment Agency and the Harbour Authority about pollution entering the Harbour from the town's main culverts. The culverts discharge into the Harbour from the town's streams and surface water drainage systems. Further investigation by The Environment Agency and Copeland Borough has led both organisations to believe that one of the main causes may literally be closer to home than people think.
Environment Agency Officer Duncan Fyfe comments: "If a domestic drainage system is connected up incorrectly the dirty water which should go to sewage treatment works to be cleaned will end up in streams instead. This is one of things we suspect is happening in Whitehaven. "Most people think of factories and mines when they read about the pollution of our rivers and seas and yet the pollution could be from a much less obvious source." Wrong connections occur when toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and baths and connected by mistake to the surface water drain. Any such discharge into this drain will pass untreated into a stream or soakaway and will cause pollution. In a stream this can cause unpleasant smells and unhealthy conditions where plants and fish will not survive.
The Environment Agency encourages everyone to ensure that they have been connected up properly. If you are in doubt then check your house drainage with the technical services department of your local authority. This is particularly important if you have had any recent work done on your house or premises, such as a new extension, or installed a new appliance such as a washing machine. Duncan Fyfe comments: "The chances are that the householder may not have been responsible for plumbing in their appliance but they are responsible for putting it right. Wrong connections are not only harmful to the environment, they are also illegal.
"Whitehaven Harbour has played a central role in the regeneration and transformation of the town in recent years. It has put Whitehaven firmly on the tourist map and is a joy to residents, shoppers and boat owners alike. However, the actions of a few risk spoiling things for others" Other sources of pollution in the Harbour are likely to include the careless disposal of used oil from car maintenance or even cooking oil. In addition the dumping of household garden rubbish (including garden and household chemicals) close to a stream or river can also cause pollution problems. The disposal of dirty paint brush residues and cleaning wastes into drains from homes, commercial and industrial premises can all find their way into watercourses - and ultimately end up in the Harbour.
Duncan Fyfe adds: "These substances need to be disposed of correctly and the surface water drains are not the right place for them. It only takes a small amount of oil for example to cover a very large area which is not only unpleasant to look at but can be harmful to fish and wildlife."Ray Kemp, Chief Waterways Engineer for Copeland Borough Council, comments: "The Harbour is a real asset to the town and by being proactive in raising public awareness we hope to be able to keep it clean for the benefit of everyone." To receive a leaflet on Making the Right Connection and on sources of Home Pollution call the Environment Agency on 08708 506506 and ask for Kiera Armstrong. For further information ask for Duncan Fyfe.
Anglers Welcome Responsible Management of Cormorants
The Moran Committee welcomes the announcement by Fisheries and Conservation Minister, Ben Bradshaw, on the relaxation of the licence
application process for shooting cormorants. Cormorant numbers hunting inland have increased dramatically over the past three decades, and it is now widely accepted that they can cause significant damage to fish stocks and fisheries. Currently, some 23,000 birds over-winter in Great Britain, with perhaps 17,000 being present in England.
Defra has been conducting a review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which implements the EU Birds Directive and applies conditions under which birds causing a nuisance may be controlled, including shooting as a means to scaring. The main points to come from this review, and included in the Minster's statement, are detailed below. This concludes several years of lobbying by angling and fisheries organisations on the issue, and a few recent weeks of intensive consultation between Defra and the Moran Committee Bird Group, represented by its Chairman, National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives' Terry Mansbridge, and the Salmon & Trout Association's Paul Knight.
Terry Mansbridge said, "We welcome these changes of policy by Defra, which will significantly improve the ability of fishery managers to protect their fish stocks whilst not affecting the conservation status of the birds. Our thanks to the Minister and his department, and to Martin Salter MP for his efforts on our behalf." Paul Knight agreed. "We particularly welcome the added protection this will give vulnerable migrating salmon and sea trout smolts, together with spawning coarse fish and recently stocked fish in still waters."
Both added, "It is now up to all fishery managers to use the new and improved procedures, if they have a problem with cormorants. We believe that this will allow fishery managers to redress the local balance between inland avian predators and freshwater fish populations, without causing undue impact on national cormorant numbers. It is a responsible compromise which meets the need to protect fish stocks as well as birds".
Lord Moran, Chairman of the Moran Committee, said, "all anglers should be grateful to Terry Mansbridge and Paul Knight and their colleagues on the Committee's Bird Group for their unremitting efforts to bring about a sensible solution to this problem, which has now been achieved. We must also be grateful to Ben Bradshaw, who has listened to what our Committee has been saying and given us a fair set of measures which should reduce the damage done to fisheries by cormorants while preserving reasonable numbers of birds and fish."
WYE & USK UPDATE, SEPT. 2004
The recent rain has brought a spate that has, by some margin, eclipsed the high water levels of late August and early September. Will this be enough to provide good salmon fishing conditions for the remaining four weeks of the season? Reports from the lower beats are of salmon moving at last, including some silver grilse. The Upper river Wye is dropping and should be fishable by later today or tomorrow, providing there is no more meaningful rainfall overnight. Anyone tempted by the thought of late season salmon fishing should give us a call immediately!
Once the waters have subsided the trout and grayling will come back on the take. The next two weeks will be the last chance to get onto some of the Roving Voucher beats. The tributaries, reinvigorated by the latest rainfall, will be in great shape for the final fortnight .
Wye Grayling fishing has been spectacular this September. All our main river booking office beats (plus a couple of new waters) will remain open for grayling over the autumn and winter. Another email will be sent out shortly with full details of our grayling fishing.
The Usk has also benefited from the latest heavy rains. On Monday evening one of our employees witnessed numerous fresh sea trout and salmon moving over Brecon weir. These should mean that the Penpont beat, 4 miles upstream of Brecon, is well occupied!
Lastly, the Wye & Usk Foundation's Annual Meeting will be held on Oct 22nd at the Three Counties Hotel in Hereford from 7 p.m. We will give updates on the progress of our projects to restore the fisheries of both rivers. You will be able to grill us on any of the issues that arise. The bar is open throughout and a buffet provided. Good raffle too. All welcome but numbers are restricted to 130 so we ask you to contact the Foundation if you plan on attending. Please call us as soon as possible on 01982 551 520 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of people in your party. We look forward to seeing you there!