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UK Salmon numbers are in serious decline and we need to act now

61 of the 64 principal salmon rivers of England and Wales in 2019 were “at risk” or “probably at risk”

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Wye River Atlantic salmon, like many other U.K. runs, is under threat from human activty as well as climate change.

Getting people worked up about slippery, slimy creatures is a lot tougher. Yet they are just as important – and their plight tells us just as much about the state of our environment. Take the king of fish. Wild Atlantic salmon numbers are in serious decline, says the Missing Salmon Alliance, a coalition of conservationists and anglers. One reason is the state of the British rivers to which these fish return to spawn from as far away as Greenland.

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The latest Environment Agency report found that salmon stocks in 61 of the 64 principal salmon rivers of England and Wales in 2019 were “at risk” or “probably at risk”. This is reflected in catch data. The total declared catch for salmon rods has dropped by two-thirds since 1988.

Our rivers need to clean up their act. They are under siege from farmland fertilisers and pesticides seeping into the waterways, overflowing sewage, water companies pumping water out of rivers into reservoirs, climate change and general pollution. Salmon also face overfishing – by man and predators such as cormorants.

The MSA points out that the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have plans in place for these fish.

But MSA spokesman Stuart Singleton-White said: “Action is needed urgently. We can’t wait. The salmon certainly can’t.”

His fears about our rivers are shared by cricket legend Lord Botham, a keen angler. Last month he pointed out that the UK is home to 85 percent of the world’s chalk streams, which are a “paradise” for fish such as trout.

But he wrote that Britain’s three million anglers “have had enough of water being pumped out and sewage pumped in”.

If salmon are struggling, in the oceans, on migration or when they return to their birth rivers to spawn, it should worry us all.

Stuart said: “If we can’t save one of our most treasured jewels from the brink of extinction, what hope do we have for the rest of our precious biodiversity?”