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Decision to close Welsh hatcheries has anglers up in arms


December 17, 2014
By Quentin Dodd

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has decided to close all but one salmon hatchery effective 2015. Apparently the decision was made because of studies that reportedly demonstrated risks associated with salmonid hatcheries and the genetics of wild fish.

 Needless to say a group of anglers and angling-related organizations are hopping mad. And in light of the decision, Fish Legal has called on NRW to develop a plan to address problems causing fish declines, such as pollution, barriers to fish migration, predation, and commercial netting.

 John Roe, a spokesman for the Dee Fishery Association of Dee River riverbank owners, told HI that many regard that NRW is abrogating its statutory obligation. They contend that NRW has a duty to operate the mitigation hatcheries, installed specifically to make up for the damage done to the rivers’ runs by various governmental programs and projects on the rivers.

 Many believe that studies have in fact failed to prove that hatcheries pose a risk to wild stocks.

 But nor have these groups provided new “evidence” to refute the NRW findings. So for now the NRW is pressing ahead with its plan to end stocking from the hatcheries at Mawddach, near Dolgellau, and Maerdy near Corwen next year, after using the fish currently in those facilities.

 The Cynrig hatchery, near Brecon, is to remain “open” but be assessed in the meantime for the possibility of developing a freshwater research centre on the site.

 The NRW director of knowledge, strategy and planning said in a release that the agency continues to assert that it’s “passionate about making sure Wales has a healthy and sustainable salmon population,” and will seek to do that by concentrating on improving water quality and fish habitat in Wales’ salmon rivers. For 10 years already NRW has been working on these issues.

 Roe acknowledged that he’s in agreement with NRW that the agency, while a wing of the UK Environmental Agency, had failed to improve salmon returns through the hatchery program in Wales.

 But concentrating entirely on a habitat-improvement would put the whole fishery into the hands of program which has been pretty much immeasurable in its effectiveness, is potentially costly to implement and monitor, and flies in the face of successful hatchery-based salmon-run enhancement projects elsewhere.

 That there are successful hatchery projects is a point the NRW seems to have chosen to ignore.

– Quentin Dodd 


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