Battle to save salmon undermined by cutbacks

A A A

The battle to save the salmon, one of the world's most threatened fish, is at risk by swingeing cutbacks in Government funding personally ordered by the Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, the Environment Agency believes.

The battle to save the salmon, one of the world's most threatened fish, is at risk by swingeing cutbacks in Government funding personally ordered by the Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, the Environment Agency believes.

Mr Brown is slashing by a full third the money available next year for the agency's salmon conservation effort in England, from £4.6m to £3.1m. As a result, anti-poacher patrols on England's salmon rivers are to be cut by half, water bailiffs and scientists will be transferred to other jobs, and a whole raft of salmon conservation measures will have to be abandoned.

Mr Brown has told Parliament he was imposing the cut because of the costs of the Pet Passport scheme and the BSE enquiry, and because the agriculture ministry had failed to sell a surplus building in London. But senior sources in the fishing world are convinced the real reason is Mr Brown's well-known and frequently-expressed hostility to all field sports.

The cut has caused consternation in the Environment Agency, from the chairman, Sir John Harman, down, and so drastic are the effects expected to be that this week the agency is preparing to ask the Government to be relieved of its statutory duty to prepare Salmon Action Plans for England's 40-odd salmon rivers.

Sir John, former Labour leader of Kirklees council in West Yorkshire, said yesterday: "The effect of the cut will be to severely affect the agency's ability to protect salmon and maintain their numbers at a time when stocks are already under severe pressure. It is very difficult to understand the rationale behind it."

Britain's salmon stocks are in fact at a historic low point, with catches on a prime river such as the Wye having fallen by 75 per cent in ten years. The reason is poorly understood, but thought to be connected with changes to the salmon's distant ocean feeding grounds off Greenland being brought about by global warming. Certainly. fewer adult salmon are returning from the sea than ever before, and 73 per cent of salmon rivers in England now have stocks that are too low to maintain themselves on a stable basis.

On Wednesday the agency's board will be presented with a paper formally setting out the effects of the cuts. They include a big reduction in staffing levels, big reductions in river and coastal enforcement patrols, decreased fish monitoring, a virtual end to capital expenditure, and the likely sale of the agency's fishery enforcement vessel Northumbria Rivers The areas affected most will be Cumbria, Northumbria and the West Country.

Chris Poupard, director of the Salmon and Trout Association hit out at Mr Brown's action.

"In terms of total Government expenditure, £1.5m is just petty cash," he said. "But in terms of salmon conservation in England it represents a huge sum.

"The cut is a disgrace. It's diabolical."

The agency is now further worried that it may face further cuts from Mr Brown in future years. For fishery officer Mike Maslin the drop in funding will bring to a premature end the work he and his colleagues have been doing to turn Devon streams into ideal nurseries for baby salmon.

Mr Maslin, 42, has been recently working on a tributary to the Devon Avon, a small river running off Dartmoor, much less well known than its Hampshire or Warwickshire namesakes, but one that nevertheless has a respectable salmon run.

The Bickham brook is a stream that salmon swim up from the Avon to spawn in. "It's a very good stream for juvenile fish," Mr Maslin said. "It's got nursery areas, meanders, which create undercuts in the bank for the fish to hide in and a few deep pools. It's got the right diversity of habitat."

Mr Maslin and a colleague have been trying to make it even better by loosening the gravel on the stream bed to make it easier for salmon to cut their redds, or egg laying sites, which they do by swishing their bellies from side to side.

They have also been cutting back overhanging trees to allow more light onto the water, which promotes weed growth, which in turn promotes the insect life the young fish need for food.

Mr Maslin said: "Out of about 5,000 eggs a fish lays, only one per cent will survive to be two years old. If we can give them a helping hand it can make a real difference."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy