Plans to ban salmon fishing in Wales has been described as “futile and vindictive” by conservationists on the Wye.

A proposal by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to ban all salmon fishing in Welsh rivers – and the English stretch of the Wye – has been described as a last-ditch desperate attempt to cover up 20 years of failed policies by local anglers.

The closure is suggested in a paper written by Natural Resources Wales which has been criticised for overlooking alternatives such as reopening of a conservation hatchery and for calling for more research into the cause of the problem.

“The rate of decline in salmon numbers in Welsh rivers and the Wye is so alarming that, by the time new research findings are ready, the species will be extinct,” said Stuart Smith, chairman of the Wye Salmon Association.


“NRW has totally failed to achieve anything positive over salmon decline in the Wye and many other Welsh salmon river since its formation in 2013 when it took over the primary management of the Wye from the Environment Agency. 

"Since then, they and their predecessors have wasted more than £20 million but failed to improve salmon numbers. Their answer is more research rather than action.”

The Wye Salmon Association, highlighted a number of issues they had in the report such as the lack of external peer review and the blaming of the whole problem on “at sea losses” and “global climate change”.

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Ben Wilson, Principal Fisheries Advisor for NRW, said any ban would be a "last resort".

“The report was commissioned by NRW to better understand the risks that salmon face and how we may be able to address them," said Mr Wilson.

“It is authored by two independent experts the field of salmon biology and conservation and although they make recommendations on salmon conservation, they do not directly form NRW policy.

“The report authors rightly suggest that measures be taken to address all known sources of additional mortality, and they include fishing pressure as one of those.

“NRW has implemented comprehensive byelaws that require all net or rod caught salmon to be released alive and restricts fishing methods to those that are conducive to successful catch and release.

“We are currently satisfied that no additional restrictions on fishing are required at present."

The Wye Salmon Association also slam the lack of mentions about water quality, pollution or in-river predation and that the report “totally fails to recognise the urgency of the situation other than to identify that salmon could become extinct in Wales in ten to twenty years’ time.”

"NRW’s answer is to consider closing all rivers," they said. "I doubt that banning coarse fishing or canoeing would be politically acceptable to the Welsh Government, so this would then be seen as a futile and vindictive approach against salmon fishers, owners and other river users.”

Mr Wilson said: “We continue to progress with a wide range of measures to improve river habitat and water quality. We are also working with a wide range of partners to identify additional actions to help protect our rivers and these iconic fish from the effects of climate change.

“The adverse risks to wild populations associated with hatchery interventions mean that we will only consider that as a measure of last resort. Although we do not rule that out, we hope never to need it.”