Dear Mr. Crocker (Environment Agency, Head of Fisheries)
I am writing in my capacity as chairman on the Avon Fishing Association (AFA) to seek detailed information on the declared rod catches of salmon and sea trout on the Avon (Devon) in 2008. I am making this request under the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations.
Environment Agency (EA) reports on rod catches are important. They provide useful information on the health of fish stocks in the Avon (Devon). This helps the AFA manage fishing effort and conservation policy on parts of the river under its control.
Unfortunately there is a large discrepancy between the information supplied by the Environment Agency (EA) in the 2009 Catch Return form and that submitted by AFA members to the association.
According to the EA 61 salmon and 291 sea trout were caught on the Avon (Devon) in 2008. It is difficult to reconcile this picture of the state of fish stocks with that provided by our members returns in 2008.
The AFA controls a considerable length of the fishing on the Avon (Devon) from South Brent downstream to Aveton Gifford.
In 2008 the AFA issued 59 season and two visitor tickets. Twelve of these ticket holders caught a total of 47 sea trout. Ten ticket holders caught a total of 20 salmon.
With your help, we would like to re-examine the raw dataset to confirm that in 2008, 244 (i.e. 291-47) sea trout and 41 salmon (i.e. 61-20) were caught by anglers who were not AFA ticket holders.
Obviously there is no clear cut answer to this query in your dataset because anglers do not indicate membership of the AFA on their catch returns.
However we do have a record of how many fish were caught by each AFA ticket holder. Therefore if you provide us with the raw dataset used to calculate the total number of salmon and sea trout caught on the Avon (Devon) in 2008, then we can make a reasonable estimation of the catch by AFA and non-AFA ticket holders.
I’m sure we both want to rule out the possibility that fish caught on the Avon (Hants) have been inadvertently misattributed to the Avon (Devon). There is some evidence to support this suggestion in the EA Fisheries Statistics Report 2008. Table 8 records 2 salmon caught on the Avon (Devon) in February: the fishing (trout) season opens on the Avon (Devon) on March 15th whereas salmon fishing on the Wiltshire Avon starts on 1st February. Table 9 reports 74 sea trout caught in October, only 68 were returned - it's illegal to keep sea trout caught in October on the Avon (Devon). Sea trout fishing extends to 31st October on the Wiltshire Avon
Therefore it is essential that the table of raw data has a column showing where each fish was caught. The 2009 Catch Return form asks anglers to state the county as well as the name of the river. In previous years some other way of distinguishing between the Avon (Hants) and the Avon (Devon) may have been used e.g. nearest town, bridge etc. Incidentally I have been told that there is an area called Knap Mill on the Avon (Hants). The same place name is used to refer to one of the most popular sea trout stretches on the Avon (Devon).
Based on your reported figures, I would expect that about 74 anglers caught sea trout on the Avon (Devon) in 2008 for the following reasons.
If we assume that AFA members are a representative sample (albeit small) of angling ability then we can form a rough expectation of the number of non-members who reported catching sea trout on the Devon Avon to the EA at the end of the 2008 season.
AFA ticket holders each caught on average 3.9 (i.e. 47/12) sea trout.
Assuming similar success we would expect that approximately 62 (i.e. 244/3.9) non-AFA members accounted for the 244 sea trout not shown in our records.
Therefore we would expect that 74 (62 non-AFA members + 12 AFA ticket holders) anglers reported catching sea trout on the Devonshire Avon in 2008.
Frankly I would be amazed if 62 non-AFA ticket holders fished – let alone caught 244 sea trout - on this river in 2008.
Incidentally this is not the first year that I have detected a discrepancy between EA and AFA figures.
In summary, I would be grateful if you would supply me with data that will enable the Avon Fishing Association to check the validity of the 2008 catch return data for the Avon (Devon) reported by the EA on the 2009 Catch Return form.
Chairman, Avon Fishing Association
6 Kimberley Villas
Tel: 01752 893382