Arfon Assembly Member Siân Gwenllian today expressed her surprise and disappointment at the news that Lesley Griffiths AM and Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs had declined her request for a meeting to discuss the new fisheries bylaws, which if implemented, will bring significant fishing restrictions for the majority of Welsh rivers.
“It strikes me as a very strange move when an Assembly Member requests a meeting with a member of the cabinet regarding a matter that is of great concern to many electors, only to be re-buffed”, said Siân Gwenllian. “There is huge concern about these proposed bylaws among the angling community in Arfon and Anglesey which is shared across Wales. Two petitions, to be considered by the assembly’s petition committee in April, calling for further scrutiny of the situation, are gaining momentum. Fishing is a prized cultural amenity and way of life for many people and an important element of Welsh tourism. Given fishing’s role as a provider of socio-economic and cultural value, it would greatly benefit the debate if the cabinet member responsible would meet with myself and Rhun ap Iorwerth in order to hear and discuss some of the concerns that have been conveyed to us.”
Siân Gwenllian AM and Rhun ap Iorwerth AM have previously met with representatives of the campaign to oppose the bylaws and develop a revised approach which would sustain fish stocks and community fishing clubs in Wales. The campaign is supported by both the Angling Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries amongst others. At community meetings, grave concerns were voiced regarding the potential impact of the proposed bylaws which carry imminent risk to the future of fishing clubs, the future of positive partnership working on rivers and the critical role fishing plays in stimulating wellbeing and economic sustainability to many elements of rural economies.
Those behind the campaign to further examine the suitability of these bylaws do not deny there has been a decline in fish stocks. For decades now, they within their angling clubs and Local Fisheries Advisory Groups across Wales, have been developing progressive means to improving the situation and continue to do so in earnest.
“Anglers are being unfairly targeted over the decline in fish stocks,” said Reuben Woodford, Local Fisheries Advisory Group representative for fishermen of the Afon Ogwen, speaking on behalf of the campaign. “There are many factors that contribute to the decline of fish in our rivers and NRW lacks a robust strategy to deal with these. Climate change certainly exacerbates the situation, especially for salmon, as a warming climate is not conducive to their long-term survival and the variability of rainfall patterns in recent years brings new challenges. Habitat loss, loss of spawning gravels and significant problems with water quality and pollution incidents, means salmon quite simply are migrating into environments where they as adult fish and their juvenile offspring, are finding it tough to survive. Most rivers have barriers to migration, weirs for instance, where they may be held up. Delayed in their journey, they become easy prey for a host of natural predators which include an ever increasing population of fish eating birds. There are also significant problems at sea; this fish does not make it easy for itself, it likes to travel.
“As a campaign, we are very grateful and humbled by the immense support from across the nation. Two petitions launched by the campaign has been very widely supported, not at all surprising, when it is apparent 83% of respondents to Natural Resources Wales’ consultation on fish stock control bylaws were not in agreement with the findings that have informed the bylaws now being considered by Welsh Government.”
Siân Gwenllian said, “Fishing is an enjoyable experience and pastime for many and the message I’m hearing loud and clear from my constituents is that Welsh Government hasn’t listened or paid adequate attention to the concerns of anglers. The development of measures to control fish stocks, should be conducted as a partnership, and Lesley Grffiths AM’s refusal to meet flies in the face of that very principle.”