Charles Walker MP (Broxbourne, Atlantic salmon), Jon Cruddas MP (Dagenham and Rainham, European eel) and Scott Mann MP (North Cornwall, sea bass) have become three of the first MP ‘Species Champions’ in England after lending their political support to protection and restoration of threatened stocks of fish.
Iconic and threatened English species are being ‘adopted’ by MPs across England, who are acting as ‘Species Champions’ to help improve the future of these species. From the smooth snake to the nightingale, 20 English species currently facing significant threats have been identified and put up for adoption. The Angling Trust proposed these three fish species as a contribution to the initiative because they are among the most threatened of all fish.
The initiative was launched this week by a coalition of organisations including RSPB, Buglife and the Angling Trust. This follows a successful model in Scotland, and a trial in the South West of England in 2014.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar): Salmon were once abundant and widespread in English rivers but in 2014, of England’s 42 principal salmon rivers 10 were assessed as being ‘at risk’ of not achieving their conservation limits in at least four out of five years, 28 ‘probably at risk’ and 10 ‘at risk’. None was deemed to be ‘not at risk’.
European eel (Anguilla anguilla): Recent official advice by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to the EU is that whilst there has been a slight increase in glass eel recruitment, the status of stocks remains critical. ICES advice is for all human-caused mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, and pollution) to be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence of a continued increase in both recruitment and the adult stock.
Sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax): over-fishing, increasing fishing effort, targeting of spawning and juvenile aggregations and successive years of recruitment failure have led to the stock reaching its lowest-ever recorded level. In December 2015 the EU Council of Ministers agreed a package of conservation measures for 2016 which is estimated to result in reported landings of bass in 2016 of 1,660tonnes – over three times the amount advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “We are very grateful to our MPs for agreeing to champion the cause of these three iconic species in Parliament. The Angling Trust has provided them all with detailed briefings about their species and what they can do to encourage decisions in parliament to help restore healthy populations. We hope that this initiative will provide a brighter future for salmon, eels and bass, by increasing understanding in the political community of the challenges these fish face.