NATURAL Resources Wales (NRW) have responded to claims from Severn estuary fishermen that allowing the seal population to breed unchecked would prove detrimental to salmon stocks in the area's rivers.

After numerous sightings of seals catching and eating salmon near Chepstow, Martin Morgan - secretary of Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery - said: "When they [seals] are allowed to settle and multiply on the river system, this will always cause problems for salmon stock".

However, this has been refuted by NRW, who say that - not only is the presence of the seals' no indication of salmon stocks increasing or declining - the seals do not breed in the area in any case.

Jon Goldsworthy, South East Wales Operations Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said: “Seals are a natural feature of our rivers and part of the resilient and biodiverse environment here in Wales.

"They do not breed in, or close to the river Wye, and are occasional visitors.

"The seal spotted near Chepstow, was predominately eating shad and will be within its natural feeding range.

"It’s presence is not an indication that the salmon stocks are either declining or recovering and is an example of nature in action.”


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Steve Morgan, head of NRW operations in South East Wales, added: "The seal at the Wye, is within its natural feeding range for fish and whilst natural predation is generally unavoidable, in this case its presence is not an indication that the salmon stocks are either declining or recovering.

"Seals are and have been a natural feature of the Wye estuary.

"They are often spotted there and is an example of nature in action."

At present, the Black Rock fishermen are operating under catch-and-release restrictions which have been imposed by NRW in an effort to help salmon stocks recover.

The group, who are working to keep alive the centuries-old fishing tradition of using triangular lave nets, have been in discussions with NRW, saying that such restrictions amount to "cultural vandalism".

"We recognise that the tradition of lave net fishing at Black Rock is an important part of the history and heritage of the area and Wales," said Mr Morgan of NRW.

"Whilst we do not want to stop the fishermen from using lave nets, we do need them to change their practice, as all other netsmen and anglers have done throughout Wales.

"We recognise the small number of salmon caught by the netsmen, but also the evidence that the status of salmon stocks in local rivers is threatened and any salmon killed is likely to have a negative impact."