Letter: Chips are down for salmon

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The Independent Online
Graham Mole touched the tip of a very worrying iceberg in his report on the near demise of salmon in the river Test ("Drought drives fish from the Test", 20 April). The problem is shared with the neighbouring rivers Itchen, Hampshire Avon, Stour, Frome and Piddle. The Dorset Stour lost any semblance of a salmon run 20 years ago. The 623 Test salmon recorded in 1996 were virtually all returning fish stocked as juveniles.

There are many reasons for the crises; siltation resulting from changes in agricultural methods is just one. It may help a site to flush silt away but the problem may simply be delivered to a downstream neighbour. The only long-term solution is restoration of suitable flow regimes and water quality.

We must also deal with marine exploitation of returning salmon, with Ireland causing particular problems, and industrial fishing of their food. There is also excessive predation of fish and, above all, habitat degradation.

Catch and release of live fish on the Hampshire Avon last season resulted in 34 per cent of rod-caught salmon being returned alive or donated to us as brood stock for our pilot rearing scheme. The anglers were each given a salmon by Tesco which also funds the purchase of all the salmon caught by the Mudeford netsmen for use as brood stock or release into the river.

These are short-term defensive measures and no substitute for enabling the optimum spawner escapement into a congenial breeding environment.

Brian Marshall

Wessex Salmon Association