A FISHERY on the Severn Estuary working to keep a centuries-old tradition alive have branded an enforced catch-and-release police as "bitterly disappointing".

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has said that Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery must operate on a catch and release only basis again this summer.

It put the same rules in place last year, saying that killing "even small numbers of salmon could negatively impact populations which are already threatened".

NRW has said that asking the fishermen to carefully return any salmon they catch is "necessary to ensure the species has the best chance to survive and breed".

In January last year mandatory catch and release was announced for all rod and netsmen on all Welsh rivers as part of a range of measures to protect declining salmon stocks.

Martin Morgan, secretary of Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery, said: "This is bitterly disappointing for us.

"For NRW to conclude that taking a maximum of five salmon from the Severn estuary will have any significant effect, this is not about salmon stock it is purely about clearance of the Severn estuary of traditional salmon fishing and we are the last , all others have been removed in a program of closure stretching back decades."


He said that denying the fishermen their meagre catch of five fish a season, when anglers can operate "without limit" was "prejudicial in the extreme against our fishery".

"Without a political will at the highest level to protect the heritage and tradition of groups such as ours, this is what you get," he said.

Jon Goldsworthy, operations manager from NRW said: “We appreciate that this will be disappointing for the fishermen, but with populations threatened every salmon counts.

“Lave net fishing at Black Rock has been passed down through generations and 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 and anglers have done throughout Wales.

“We sincerely hope they’ll take up the licences this summer and keep the tradition alive.”

However, Mr Morgan says that the damage has already been done.

"For them to say that they 'sincerely hope they take up their licences this season to keep the tradition alive' is a complete joke as their actions will have destroyed the fishery ," he said.

"It seems now they have their victory. Hope they are proud of what they have done."