The River Lune was once one of the most productive salmon rivers in England. But anglers say a combination of problems including avian predation, agricultural pollution, rising sea temperatures and the damaging effects of sea lice from Scottish coastal salmon farms on salmon smolts migrating to their feeding grounds in the North Atlantic, have contributed to a dramatic drop in stocks.
Brian James, chairman of Lancaster and the District Angling Association, said the number of Atlantic salmon counted at the Forge Weir fish counter traveling up the River Lune in 2021 had fallen to just 1,384 from 3,474 in 2015. He feels the challenging situation must be resolved – as soon as possible.
“Lune River salmon stocks have been in decline for several years. However, the situation is now extremely worrying,” he explained. I fear that in the years to come the Atlantic salmon will be extinct in the Lune River!
“All salmon caught by anglers are safely released back into the river, however, urgent action is needed to find a viable and economical method of replenishing the river.”
In the early 2000s, net fishing in the Moon’s estuary caught about 1,100 salmon per year, while rod and line fishing in the freshwater portion of the Moon caught a similar number of salmon on average. per year. In recent years, net fishing has averaged less than 250 salmon per year and rod and line catches less than 400 salmon per year. The commercial salmon net fishery is now closed.
The most notable change in the salmon run over the past eight to ten years has been the almost complete absence of madeleines – the smallest salmon that have spent only a year at sea before returning to the Moon to spawn and previously made up a large portion of the salmon return run.
Mr James added: The Moon is one of the few rivers in England and Wales that still has a salmon hatchery. The hatchery is funded entirely by voluntary donations from angling clubs and people interested in moon salmon. Similarly, the operation of the hatchery is entirely managed by volunteers from the Moon salmon fishing community. We would like to see the hatchery operation expanded in the very near future, as we believe it plays a very important role in securing the moon salmon for future generations. »
Speaking of the decline in salmon stocks in the River Lune, an Environment Agency spokesman said: “The decline in numbers of wild salmon in rivers across England is very concerning and we are committed to preserve this species for future generations.
“In 2021, the Environment Agency introduced new local regulations for rod and line fishing on the River Lune which require the mandatory catch and release of all salmon caught for the next 10 years to to protect stocks and help them recover Across the country and including on and around the River Lune, the Environment Agency is working to improve fishing habitats, remove barriers to migration, addressing poor water quality and river flows and combating illegal fishing.
Similar concerns were raised by Tim Pitt, Director of Lune Rivers Trust, who said: “Lune Rivers Trust is very aware of the significant decline in Atlantic salmon in the Lune River over the past two decades. Unfortunately, this happens in many salmon rivers. across England. Atlantic salmon are an iconic species, and as well as being a fabulous thing to see in the wild, they are an indicator of the overall health of the river. Unfortunately, there is currently little funding available to address the declining salmon stocks in the Moon.
“We urge all organizations involved to invest more resources to first understand exactly what is happening on the Moon that is causing salmon decline, and then implement effective interventions to reverse that decline.”