MEMBERS of a Severn Estuary fishery who use traditional fishing methods dating back centuries have had call off the start of what be would their centenary season this week amid a row with Wales's environment agency.

Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery's riverside site remains empty, meaning that for the first time in at least 100 years that there will be no lave net fishermen using their ancient skills on the shores of the Severn.

Secretary Martin Morgan warns that their legacy "is in danger of being destroyed" by an "agenda of clearance" being pursued by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

The NRW says it is concerned about salmon stocks and how lave net fishing might affect them.

A recent Habitats Regulations Assessment carried out by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) ruled that the practice of lave net fishing is adversely affecting salmon stocks.

The fishermen previously operated under a license allowing them to catch five salmon per month during the three-month season (June-August).

At the start of this year, new bylaws were introduced for Welsh rivers enforcing catch-and-release for salmon due to dwindling stocks.

Mr Morgan says the position the fishermen have found themselves in is 'soul destroying'.

"All we have built is in danger of being destroyed by NRW," he said.

"In our opinion, they have an agenda of clearance. Clearing the estuary of traditional fishermen."


The Black Rock fishermen had planned a whole host of events to celebrate their 100th year of fishing the salmon of the Severn, but Mr Morgan said these have been put paid to.

"We hoped to fish with the flat cap of our forefathers and exhibit at numerous events," he said, conceding that these would likely have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic in any case.

The fishermen were also hoping to unveil their new statue of a lave net fisherman, carved from Welsh oak by wood carver Chris Wood.

"This will now be a monument, not a celebration," said Mr Morgan.

The closure, Mr Morgan said, will result in many things. However, he said that an increase in salmon stock would not be among them, as industrial salmon fishing has already taken its toll.

"Our cultural heritage, a way of life and the joy it gives to many people would all be lost," he said.

A petition calling on the Welsh Government to save the fishery can be found at at

NRW operations manager Jon Goldsworthy acknowledged that the tradition of lave net fishing at Black Rock "is an important part of the history and heritage of the area".

“We do not want to stop the fishermen from using lave nets at Black Rock, but we do need them to change their practice, as other netsmen have done throughout Wales," he said.

“While we recognise that it’s only a very small number of fish caught by the fishermen each year, every spawning fish matters.

"We are continuing discussions with the fishermen about the practicalities of returning their catch and hope to find a way to secure the future of the fishery."