Salmon Stocking for Welsh Rivers Set to be Phased Out By 2015

It has been revealed over the past week that National Resources Wales (NRW) have approved plans to close two salmon hatcheries in the country in a move to try and boost salmon numbers. It has also been stated that all “third party” stocking of salmon and sea trout in Welsh rivers may also be banned following claims that it is actually counter-productive and may in fact be damaging the current wild fish stocks.   NRW are basing their decision on a recent scientific study that suggests that while the stocking from these hatcheries can help to restore fish populations in rivers where salmon were previously extinct, it is not effective at increasing stocks in existing wild populations.  The study also suggests that the hatchery-reared young salmon have a much lower survival rate than young wild fish, which in some cases will actually have a negative effect and potentially harm existing wild salmon populations.     The two hatcheries that are down to close are the ones at Mawddach, near Dolgellau and at Maedyr near Corwen,  with a third hatchery – the Cynrig hatchery, near Brecon, remaining open but will be developed in to a freshwater and fisheries research centre.   There has obviously been much opposition to these plans from anglers and river conservationists who claim the closure of these hatcheries will have a devastating effect that could lead to the collapse of salmon numbers in Wales. Opponents are arguing the decision has been based on flimsy scientific studies that were based on commercial fisheries in the US and Canada and are not applicable in Wales.   Chris White, secretary of the Conwy Valley Fisheries & Conservation Association has said “It is estimated that the US west coast hatcheries release around 100m salmon smolts each year and has been doing so for 50 years” and that “Continuous stocking at this level can have a long-term environmental effects. This research was also based on Pacific salmon which has a very different life cycle to Atlantic salmon.”     The money raised from the sale of the hatcheries is going to be made available to improve existing fisheries in rivers which have previously been stocked, including work to improve habitats or to open new migratory routes.   The official press release from NRU can be read here.