Huw Irranca-Davies SM speaking in the Senedd debate on salmon and sea trout yesterday evening.
Further delays to the implementation of the new agricultural regulations in Wales were announced by Welsh Government last week.
Thursday 11th May, 2023
On Wednesday evening, Huw Irranca-Davies MS, held a short debate in the Senedd on the perilous state of Atlantic salmon populations in Wales. Huw is the “Species Champion” for Welsh salmon with Cefin Campbell MS, who also contributed to the debate, the equivalent Champion for the similarly threatened sewin (sea trout).
Encouraging as it was to have the issue raised, it was also disappointing that so many Senedd Members departed the chamber before the debate started. Social media confirmed afterwards that this was something that did not go unnoticed. While labelled a “debate,” the Senedd session was anything but. Those Members that remained appeared to agree with everything that was said, and that rapid and radical action was needed to save these fish in Wales.
In something of a tragic irony, the session followed a debate on tourism in Wales. Salmon and sewin were once major assets to the Welsh tourism industry, with anglers from far and wide travelling to fish for them in our world-famous rivers.
It is something of a tragic irony that the beleagured state of salmon and sewin populations followed a Senedd debate about tourism in Wales. Both fish species used to be cornerstones of the Welsh tourism industry.
Despite the current situation, salmon are still estimated to be worth around £100m to the economies of the UK and Ireland. Their importance to Wales is not just economic, however. These iconic fish species are a central element of our history and culture too, a point that was made powerfully in the Senedd last night.
Huw Irranca-Davies MS also highlighted the many factors contributing to the decline of salmon numbers in freshwater including climate change, habitat degradation and barriers to migration (the latter contributes to 30% of the current failure under the Water Framework Directive). He also pointed out the significance of the impact from agriculture on our rivers and the need to deal with this.
The number of Senedd Members leaving the chamber as the debate started did not go unnoticed on social media.
The funding difficulties for those organisations tasked with resolving the situation was also raised. What is needed is an expansive, collaborative plan of actions, delivered by those who know Welsh river catchments best. These need to be supported by a commitment to longer-term funding which would enable prioritised and maximum delivery of the measures required.
And this needs to happen fast. Referenced in the debate was the recent report by Natural Resources Wales that suggested salmon populations may soon become “critically small.” Our Species Champion pointed out yesterday that without drastic and urgent action, salmon may become extinct in Wales in the next 20 to 30 years.
We would like to thank both Species Champions Huw Irranca-Davies MS and Cefin Campbell MS for helping greatly to elevate the plight of salmon and sewin in the political arena and we urge all Senedd Members to do their best to keep it there.
Concerns now need to be turned into action. The survival of these vital fish species depends on it.
Senedd Plenary Short Debate, “Are salmon facing extinction from the rivers of Wales?” 10th May, 2023. Recording from Senedd TV Archive, 4:55:50 onwards.