NEW bye-laws are being drawn up to help protect fish in the river Wye, the Environment Agency has announced.

It said it launched a consultation to deliver a renewed set of bye-laws for the catch and release of all salmon and sea trout in the Wye, with the current set due to expire at the end of the year.

The consultation meant interested parties could give their thoughts to the Environment Agency before the end of September.

Working collaboratively with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the two organisations said they were looking to ensure there were equivalent bye-laws in both England and Wales for the iconic cross-border river.

The new bye-laws would be aimed at limiting the exploitation of salmon and sea trout to protect and conserve stocks and to ensure the future sustainability of the Wye salmon fishery, the agency said.

Among the proposed bye-laws would be mandatory catch and release of all salmon and sea trout plus a revised end date for the season of March 3 to October 17 to allow the species time to recover.

The controls would be in place until December 31, 2029.

The most recent assessment of Wye salmon stocks indicates that they were "at risk" of failing to achieve management objectives, and predicted to be "probably at risk" in five years’ time.

The agency said the emerging evidence indicated a continued decline, with a deficit that approximates to 8,175 in the number of adult spawning salmon to the river Wye.

Chris Bainger, fisheries technical specialist for the Environment Agency’s West Midlands area, said: “The decline of wild salmon is of great concern.

"We are committed to preserving this species for future generations which is why we are taking action to conserve and restore stocks.

“Due to the current status of salmon stocks, which are currently the lowest desirable spawning stock, any increase is vital. It is therefore essential that spawning stocks are maximised if populations are to have the best chance of recovery.

“It is recognised that anglers are not the primary cause of declining stocks, but the severity of the decline means we must all play our part to recover this species.

"Anglers can and therefore must be part of the solution.”

The most recent assessment of sea trout produced by NRW indicated that the Wye stock was "probably at risk" of failing to meet its conservation limits, and predicted to still be as such in five years’ time.

Peter Gough, principal fisheries advisor for Natural Resources Wales, said: “We consider that the way to maximise benefit for the medium to long term is through the recovery of our salmon and sea trout stocks, so that they may return to sustainable levels and support larger catches.

"These management proposals for the Wye in Wales and England are intended to achieve this.

“The measures being proposed would not ban fishing, merely prevent the killing of salmon and sea trout, so the overall impact to anglers would be unchanged to that of the last 10 years on the Wye.”