Wild Atlantic salmon stocks in rivers around the UK are reaching crisis point, the Environment Agency has warned.
The Agency’s (EA) latest stock assessment report for England and Wales estimates wild salmon numbers are at their lowest levels on record, with English rivers facing the most acute threat. Out of 64 major salmon rivers, 51 are classified as “at risk”. At 80%, this represents the highest proportion recorded in this category.
The Environment Agency report says many factors are impacting on numbers at freshwater and marine sites.
It says: “In particular, climate change is leading to rising sea and river temperatures and overfishing are impacting on salmon stocks globally.
“Water quality in rivers and estuaries can also affect the fish lifecycle as well as barriers stopping salmon travelling upstream.”
The report adds: “Through the Salmon Five Point Approach action is being taken by the EA and its partners to remove barriers to migration with 19 fish passes improved in the last year.
“Work is also taking place to improve water quality and reduce the exploitation of salmon by both net and rod fisheries.”
Kevin Austin, Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment for the Environment Agency said this latest assessment was of great concern, warning that without urgent action wild Atlantic salmon could be lost from UK rivers “within our lifetime.”
He said: “We have seen some real successes through our work with partners, particularly on the river Don and Tyne, but more much progress is needed.
“As the climate emergency becomes more acute, we need coordinated action between governments, partners and industry to enable stocks to stabilise and recover to sustainable levels.”
Salmon Stocks and Fisheries In England and Wales 2021 is available to download from the Environment Agency website.