Sorry Q-n-Q, I have now amended my post, it was in reply to a comment from Tweedsider with regard to certain members of his AA. By the way, I'm impressed with the release %age of your AA to match the river total, what was that total as a matter of interest.
Yes these are the same scientists that promote C&R and support our hatcheries.....
Its any fish = not just salmon - i put a 16lb cod back last week - the stocks are pretty poor. I think the Coarse anglers should be the most worried - when some big carp have been caught so often they have names then the anti's could have a field day.
no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
Rivers can only be 'overstocked' by man adding adding hatchery fish.
Whatever the number of spawners/potential spawners, there is a finite amount of riverbed & tributary stream beds suited for redds.
If the spawners do lay down their eggs in poor redds, fewer will develop to fry, parr, smolt etc.
Even if many more fry do eventually appear from such redds than can be supported by the river habitat's food for them to eat, then some will not survive due to lack of food, developing weakness & perhaps disease, and being easy prey for all the predators next up on the river food chain - eg herons, trout, otters etc. With extra fry and then parr surviving in the river, more than can be normally supported through to smolt stage, there will be better pickings for such predators anyway.
Thus, the overproduction of eggs, then to fry, then to parr is most likely to be whittled down by nature anyway.
Even if more smolts than normally supported by the river system do indeed survive to the estuarine stage, again they will suffer more predation (seals etc) than normal.
When the remaining (still boosted) numbers of smolts escape to the high seas, and head off to their feeding grounds, the higher than average number will find, on average, that there is not enough food to support all of them properly, and either the average weight gain at sea will be lower per unit time, or more of them will die (probably a combination of both).
When these thinner/smaller grilse return to the estuaries to begin the breeding cycle again, they will be more at risk of predation, disease, or succumbing to 'starvation' effects due to poor weight gain at sea, hence low fat reserves, hence lower chance of survival back in the estuaries & spawning rivers.
This cycle may be repeated, but, eventually, mother nature will balance it all out again.
The bottom line: there is a finite ecological resource in habitat, feeding, and therefore 'stock'. Natural 'overstocking, therefore, can only exist in a very temporary form, soon to be corrected by mother nature's forces, as outlined above.
Agree or disagree, but mother nature IS the boss!
PS. Forgot to mention in all this: primary predator = man; whether that be on the high seas, around the coastline, in the estuaries, and in the rivers.
A very sound analysis. I would add that natural stocking must be preferable to artificial stocking with hatchery bred fish, which should only be considered where the run of wild fish is insufficient to fully stock the nursery streams.
Where there is the slightest suspicion that the runs of wild fish are insufficient to fully populate, or at least to generate a sustainable stock in, a particular river, then, for as long as this situation exists, the most logical solution would be a total moratorium on angling activity, combined with efforts to protect salmon from all other threats, be they natural or man made. Such a moratorium is, quite understandably, unlikely to be supported by anglers, fishery owners and those who are employed in angling-related occupations.
In situations where salmon stocks are fragile, we must therefore consider alternative measures. Given, then, that angling activity is likely to continue, regardless of the sustainability of salmon stocks, the next best option, on rivers where salmon stocks are uncertain, would be to impose a policy of 100% catch and release (excepting damaged fish etc.), possibly reinforced, in cases of severely depleted stocks, by a programme of artificial stocking of hatchery reared salmon, drawn from indigenous fish.
If and when stocks have recovered to a level sufficient to again fully populate the river with wild fish, with a surplus stock which might be harvested by anglers (I would hope that netting would be recognised as a less than economical use of a scarce and very valuable resource), then anglers might then be allowed to kill a very limited number of salmon, with the majority of fish being returned. In recent years there has been, in my experience, increasing recognition of the need for restraint on the part of anglers and a growing acceptance of catch and release, to the extent, indeed, that many anglers are made to feel, most unfairly, like murderous fishmongers for daring to even consider the very natural, and, on rivers with a healthy stock of salmon, entirely justifiable act of knocking a fish on the head. It would, I think, be perfectly feasible to achieve a satisfactory return rate without the need for compulsion or legal restrictions.
Where compulsion is considered necessary, I am not sure whether a tagging system would be helpful. As has been mentioned, I think it would lead to all tags being used, and the maximum permitted fish kill. The using of all tags would likely become accepted as the norm, leading, quite possibly, to fewer fish returned than might be achieved by purely voluntary means. I think I would prefer a simple fish limit, set according to the circumstances on each individual river, combined perhaps with efforts to educate and incentives to anglers to return fish.
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