NOTICE OF EXTENSION TO THE RIVER CAMEL EMERGENCY SALMON PROTECTION BYELAW

As you will be aware, in October 2017, the Environment Agency implemented an emergency byelaw to protect Atlantic salmon in the River Camel.This was in response to an unprecedented and widespread decline recorded in juvenile salmon stocks that was detected through a comprehensive catchment wide juvenile fisheries monitoring programme conducted throughout the summer of 2017.

 It had been evident that the River Camel salmon rod catch has been declining in recent years. However, the extent of the loss of juvenile salmon is of particular concern and suggested a significant failure in adult salmon spawning success. Adult and juvenile trout stocks remain relatively healthy across the catchment suggesting that this is a salmon specific issue.

We are fully aware of the concerns expressed by the River Camel angling community regarding the status of salmon and the implementation of the salmon protection byelaw. This had been implemented with the intention of enabling salmon and sea trout fishing but in such a way that it protects salmon and helping to ensure that most adult fish are able to spawn successfully. We believe that this is the best approach to maintain the important River Camel migratory salmonid fishery whilst seeking to maximise the recovery of the juvenile salmon stock. In recognition of the concerns expressed by River Camel angling interests, we agreed to review the need for the byelaw following additional juvenile fish surveys conducted by us and the West Country Rivers Trust in 2018 and an appraisal of other catch data.

These surveys identified that whilst salmon fry abundance had improved at a small number of survey sites, it was clear that salmon fry and parr populations remained exceptionally poor across much of the catchment and therefore of continuing concern. There is now no doubt in our view that within two years, very few Atlantic salmon will return to the River Camel reflecting the exceptionally poor number of smolts that are likely to have left the river.

In September 2018, following completion of the most recent juvenile survey programmes, we attempted to convene a meeting with all of the key salmon angling clubs and riparian interests on the River Camel to present the results of the recent juvenile survey data and the trends evident within the rod catch data. The overall consensus of those who attended and reviewed the data with us was that there is a significant issue with the salmon stock and its population status on the River Camel. At this meeting and subsequently, there have been extensive ongoing discussions over the best way to implement the necessary protective measures, with a Catchment wide voluntary agreement being preferred by the Environment Agency.

Unfortunately a consensus on the voluntary application of the protective measures was not reached across the catchment at this time.

It has unfortunately become clear that obtaining this universal agreement and adoption of these measures cannot be achieved by angling interests across the River Camel at present. Therefore, we have decided, with the support of Defra, to extend the emergency byelaw period from 1st November 2018 for a further 6 months to the end of April 2019. This will provide a further opportunity to discuss the required measures with the angling interests or provide us with the necessary time to seek the implementation of a longer term salmon protection byelaw. 

The measures enforceable by the Emergency Byelaw are:

  • 100% catch and release - all salmon caught on rod and line are to be returned with minimum delay.
  • The use of worm for salmon fishing is prohibited.
  • Spinners, plugs and other artificial lures must be fitted with single, barbless hooks only.
  • Hooks used with artificial flies must have a maximum gape not exceeding 8mm.
  • Prawn or shrimp may be used in conjunction with a single, barbless hook with a maximum gape not exceeding 8mm.
  • Closure of the River Camel salmon and sea trout net fishery
The above measures will be in place until 30th April 2019 unless revoked by the Environment Agency. We are currently working on the River Camel Net Limitation Order (NLO) 2018 which will also consider the necessary package of measures to protect salmon and sea trout for rod and line and net fishing on the river. We will be continuing our consultation and would appreciate confirmation that your club or fishing interest would approve the suggested voluntary NLO measures. If a voluntary consensus cannot be reached a mandatory byelaw will have to be implemented across the catchment. We have also identified the River Camel as a priority catchment and identified a number of issues that we intend to investigate and deal working with the angling clubs and other partner organisations to maximise the opportunity for the recovery of salmon stocks within the Camel catchment. If you have any question about this please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely
Bryony Devoy
Fisheries Technical Specialist DCiS and Net Limitation Order Specialist National Fisheries Team Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment Department Environment and Business Directorate Environment Agency.