One of the jobs I had to do before going on holiday was to write to the Environment Agency urging them to take action on fish stocks in the Severn catchment. This isn’t about Keith the seal, but a long term decline in fishing in the upper river and on the River Teme. Match catches have declined in recent years and several clubs and tackle shops have contacted us asking us to take action. We held one of our regional forums last year for anglers to discuss this issue and the Environment Agency said that several year classes of fish had been lost in the floods in recent years.
The Angling Trust is aware that cormorant and goosander predation have increased significantly, particularly on the Upper Severn, and as you know we are campaigning for greater freedom for angling clubs and riparian owners to control these avian predators. We hope that there will be an announcement about this soon.
However, we believe that the fish populations should be able to withstand both floods and predation and that the root causes of the decline are not being tackled at anything like the scale or speed required for a fishery of this size and importance. There needs to be a proper assessment of the water quality in this river system and the availability and accessibility of habitat for fish to spawn and hide from floods and predators.
I have therefore called on the Environment Agency to carry out such an assessment and to draw up a Fishery Action Plan to restore coarse fish stocks in the river. I would imagine that the catchment walkover studies carried out to help with delivery of the Water Framework Directive would provide a list of actions required to address diffuse pollution and other issues in the Severn and that these would form the basis of the Plan. The Angling Trust will help consult with our membership and will do all we can to encourage angling clubs to help with putting it into action.
The Severn Rivers Trust is planning to install roach spawning boards, a project that might help that one species in the future. Our members have already committed to helping the Trust to achieve this, along the same lines as the Avon Roach Project. However, the Rivers Trust does not have the necessary resources at the moment to carry out the scale of work required to get this river back on the road to recovery. Once the Fishery Action Plan has been completed, we would support substantial partnership funding from the Environment Agency being provided to the Rivers Trust to support delivery of the plan.
All this will take time. Many of our member clubs are losing members, day ticket and tackle sales on a daily basis and they do not have time to wait. These are important rural businesses and they rely on healthy fish stocks to continue employing staff. What’s more, thousands of anglers are seeing their sport suffer and they want to know what the organisation they pay with their rod licences to maintain and improve fisheries is going to do about it.
Therefore we have also urged the Environment Agency to stock fish to the upper Severn and to the Teme to compensate for those that might have been lost in the floods, which would do something to restore stocks in the short term.
I’ll let you know on here how we get on.
Please support us. We’ve had quite a few new members in the past few weeks and we need to keep those numbers going up if we are going to continue campaigning at the highest levels of government to protect fish and fishing.