Natural Resources Wales is inviting comments on new proposals about its role in the future of rearing and stocking salmon in Welsh rivers.
It follows a review into the organisation’s current salmon stocking activity and its operations at four hatcheries where new fish stocks are reared.
Scientific evidence suggests that while stocking can help to restore populations in rivers where salmon were previously extinct, it is not effective at increasing stocks in existing wild populations.
Studies suggests that hatchery-reared young salmon have a much lower survival rate than young wild fish, and in some cases introducing them into a river can potentially harm existing wild salmon populations.
As a result, the review recommends that Natural Resources Wales brings salmon stocking to an end and uses the money saved to help salmon stocks more effectively.
If stocking is bought to an end, it is also recommended that the hatcheries operated by Natural Resources Wales at Maerdy near Corwen, Mawddach near Dolgellau and Clywedog near Llanidloes should close.
However, it recommends that a study should consider whether the hatchery at Cynrig, near Brecon could be converted into a freshwater and fisheries research centre.
Any money raised from the sale of the hatcheries would also be used in other ways to improve fisheries in the areas which have previously been stocked. This could include improving habitats or opening up new migratory routes.
Natural Resources Wales will continue to carry out important projects to improve habitat and water quality in rivers and lakes, as well as removing barriers for migrating salmon.
Ceri Davies, from Natural Resources Wales said:
“These proposals are intended to make sure that we use our resources as effectively as possible to help fish stocks. We’ve done a lot over the years to improve water quality and return salmon to our rivers and we want to make sure that work continues to sustain a healthy salmon population in Wales.
“Our rivers are an important part of our environment, providing essential habitat for fish and other wildlife as well as providing us with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors through angling and other water-based activities.
“As a new organisation, we have an opportunity to think creatively about the best way to support fish stocks in the face of climate change so our rivers can continue to provide benefits to the wildlife, people and economy of Wales.”
Salmon stocking has previously been undertaken by Natural Resources Wales and partners to restore salmon populations which were damaged through previous development of reservoirs and weirs, restricting their access to breeding grounds.
Salmon are important both culturally and economically to Wales, but they are also a protected species and some rivers are designated as Special Areas of Conservation specifically for their wild salmon.
The consultation is open until 27 May and is available to view at http://naturalresourceswales.gov.uk/our-work/consultations/our-own-consultations/consultation-nrw-salmon-stocking-hatcheries/?lang=en