I am writing to members regarding the conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout stock. Members are well aware that maintaining a healthy stock of fish in the river Avon is a delicate and complex issue. It is particularly important for those species that modify their biology when migrating between sea water and fresh water and therefore are particularly vulnerable from recent environmental pressures including drought and pollution. It is pleasing that members have over the past years returned over 70% of salmon, a measure that appears to be maintaining sufficient breeding salmon. We need to develop a similar culture for Sea Trout.
I am sure you will agree that we share a collective responsibility to restrain from taking so many fish for the table that the river cannot sustain a breeding stock. Clearly we need to ensure that for future generations a large majority of fish of the right stock reach the small spawning streams at the higher reaches of the river, and importantly for our members to continue enjoying fishing. Large female sea trout are often multiple repeat spawners with the potential to deposit many eggs over their lifetime and therefore the return of these fish is a high priority. In addition there is a real risk that if we do not self regulate then a conservation target may well be imposed by the EA, which is a step to be avoided.
This topic has been discussed by members at various forums including the last AGM, when it was proposed to send a letter to members outlining our commitment. Since then we have been seeking specific advice from the EA, but it is now evident that is not forthcoming because the EA staff and resources have been reduced in line with public funding (but not our licence fees I hear you say!). Without precise details of our fish stock, fishing effort, the climatic conditions, predation factors etc it is impossible to put an exact figure on how many fish can be taken without detriment to the balance of nature. There is evidence elsewhere that a collapse of stock can occur if fishermen are too greedy and the decline in our own Sea Trout catches in recent years may be an early indicator although it is accepted that there are many other factors that can also contribute including habitat. The EA recommends a 70 % return of both migratory fish, to which the AFA Committee is committed. Guidance has been given on our website since 2009. The favoured mantra is to return the first three fish caught before taking one for the table, but this advice may need to be adapted according to the experience and effort of each member and to the size of the catch. The Committee asks that members use their own discretion and restraint so that collectively we achieve a 70% return figure over the season.
I also wish to bring to your attention the favourable report by the Wild Trout Trust written earlier this year on the habitat of the River Avon. It has been adopted by the Committee as a policy document for our river maintenance programme. The report states that our waters provide an excellent and diverse range of habitat suitable for supporting all life stages of trout, sea trout and salmon. I hope that some of you will be able to contribute to the working parties that will be arranged by John Roberts over the winter season to improve further the habitat. Please send any comments to the Committee via the AFA Secretary.
President Avon Fishing Association