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UK Atlantic salmon should be classed as endangered

Anglers have pointed to how eel conservation measures have improved since it was labeled as endangered

Wild Atlantic salmon should be re-classified as endangered, angling trusts have said, as the number caught has halved since the last assessment.

The ICUN, which is the committee that writes the global “Red List” of endangered animals has assessed the fish, once common in British waters, as of “Least Concern”, based on figures from 1996.

This is despite the fact that British government figures has found that the number of salmon caught with a rod has halved since then; 17,444 salmon were caught in the UK in 1996, compared to 8,985 in 2019.

The Salmon and Trout Conservation Trust (S&TC)is working with anglers and conservation groups to collate more data to show the ICUN that the fish deserve to be listed as endangered.

Species on the “Red List” are classified into 9 categories, from Extinct (EX) to Least Concern (LC). Species considered “threatened” are listed as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) or Vulnerable (VU).

Wild Atlantic salmon have significantly declined in British rivers. In April of last year, Fisheries Management Scotland described levels to be at “crisis point”, the lowest since 1952.

According to the Atlantic Salmon Trust’s Missing Salmon Project, less than five per cent of salmon that leave Britain’s rivers return, a decline of almost 70 per cent in 25 years.

Dangers to salmon have increased since 1996 include drift netting, water abstraction, agricultural run offs, intensive farming, salmon farms and the other obstacles we put in their paths, from weirs to surfactants.

Things are getting far worse for the fish, which is sensitive to water temperature changes which take place due to climate change, and sea-lice contamination of wild genetic fishstocks.

The S&TC has compared the situation to that of the European Eel. The species had its numbers reassessed in 2008, and was listed as Critically Endangered. This has boosted its profile and pressured governments into announcing support for the creature.

A spokesperson explained: “Recently, the European Eel’s Red List category was reassessed. In 2008, this species was reclassified as ‘Critically Endangered’, which triggered a surge in media coverage of the species’ plight, and resulted in greater action, like increased investment into eel passage.

“The same would be true for Atlantic Salmon, sending a powerful message to Governments, Water Companies, fish farmers and agriculture that this iconic species is in danger of slipping away and urgent conservation action is needed.”

The ICUN was to meet in France in January 2021, but this has been postponed due to Covid-19. A new date will be released in further course, and it is likely this issue will be brought up by salmon conservationists at that meeting.