A FISHERY on the Severn Estuary working to keep a centuries-old tradition alive, has branded an enforced catch-and-release policy as "bitterly disappointing".

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has said that Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery must operate on a catch-and-release only basis again this summer to protect vulnerable salmon stocks.

It put the same rules in place last year, saying that killing "even small numbers of salmon could negatively impact populations which are already threatened".

The envornmental agency has said asking fishermen to return any salmon they catch is "necessary to ensure the species has the best chance to survive and breed".

In January last year mandatory catch-and-release was announced for all fisheries and 'netsmen' operating on Welsh rivers, as part of a range of measures to protect declining stocks.

Martin Morgan, secretary of Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery, said it the continuation of the policy was "bitterly disappointing".

"For NRW to conclude that taking a maximum of five salmon from the Severn Estuary will have any significant effect, this is not about salmon stock, it is purely about clearance of the Severn Estuary of traditional salmon fishing, and we are the last.

"All [the] others have been removed in a program of closure stretching back decades."

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Mr Morgan added shat denying fishermen their catch of five fish a season, when anglers can operate "without limit" was "prejudicial in the extreme against our fishery".

"Without a political will at the highest level to protect the heritage and tradition of groups such as ours, this is what you get," he said.

Jon Goldsworthy, operations manager from NRW said: “We appreciate that this will be disappointing for the fishermen, but with populations threatened, every salmon counts.

“Lave net fishing at Black Rock has been passed down through generations and is an important part of the history and heritage of the area.

"We do not want to stop the fishermen from using lave nets at Black Rock, but we do need them to change their practice, as other netsmen and anglers have done throughout Wales.

“We sincerely hope they’ll take up the licences this summer and keep the tradition alive.”

Morgan says that the damage has already been done.

"For them to say that they 'sincerely hope they take up their licences this season to keep the tradition alive' is a complete joke, as their actions will have destroyed the fishery ," he said.

"It seems now they have their victory. Hope they are proud of what they have done."