The value of a salmon varies according to who catches it.

To a kingfisher or goosander a young salmon is a tasty meal. To a poacher or commercial netsman it is up to £15 per lb. To the rural economy each one caught on rod and line is worth over £4,000, whilst to a fishery's capital value it is worth around £12,000 per fish caught each year, whether kept or released. To someone caught with an illegally taken fish it is worth minus £1,000!

But to those concerned with restoring a depleted salmon run, a fish left in the river to breed is priceless. With this mind, what has the Foundation done to conserve and increase the number of adult salmon left in the river to reproduce?

  • 2000: We bought off the Severn Estuary drift nets for good with funding from owners, MSF (Orri Vigfusson's Migratory Salmon Fund), concerned trusts and fishermen.
  • 2000: We signed up the Goldcliff putchers (upstream of Newport) to a five year moratorium.
  • 1998:  We launched a catch and release scheme to reward anglers who returned spring salmon alive to the river. This was superseded by the national byelaws 1999, which made the return of all salmon before 16th June mandatory.
  • 2003: We introduced another River Wye Catch and Release incentive scheme from 16th June to the end of season.
  • 2003: We pressed hard, despite the unpopularity, to have worming, shrimping and prawning banned on the Wye. They were later that year.
  • 2007: We joined with the Wessex Salmon Trust to provide evidence for the EU complaint against the Irish drift nets. All legal Irish drift netting ceased.
  • 2008: the then Environment Agency Wales permanently bought out Goldcliff putchers after extending moratorium.
  • 2010 and 2011: the Foundation and Environment Agency bought off the Lydney Park Putchers pending introduction of strict catch limits. From 2012, enabled by the Coastal and Marine Act, this is fixed at 30 salmon per year.
  • 2012: Another byelaw made it compulsory to release all Wye salmon throughout the season.
  • 2015: The Foundation and partners run a campaign to promote better catch and release techniques for salmon. The advice is used in other rivers across the UK. See here for more details.
  • 2017: A Natural Resources Wales consultation was launched on the introduction of mandatory catch and release for all Welsh salmon at all times. Read the Foundation's formal response.

The benefits of this work

In the Estuary: Averaged over the last decade, over 2,000 salmon per year will be freed to spawn the Wye & Usk rivers but in all probability, many more than that. For the first time since Roman times salmon have free access beyond the estuary nets and traps.

On the Wye: Although voluntary catch and release rates rose from 7% in 1996, to over 70% in 2010, this was not enough to stave off a bylaw which was introduced in June 2012. The Wye's recovery will no longer be held back by legal exploitation.

On the Usk: There are proposals for compulsory catch and release for salmon across Wales. In the meantime, we urge that as many as possible Usk salmon are returned after the current mandatory catch and release period finishes on 16th June as the Usk is not reaching its conservation target. At the very least, all coloured fish and hens should be returned after that date, pending whatever action Natural Resources Wales introduces for the future.

Severn Estuary putcher rank