Filey fishermen's livelihoods 'at risk' after Environment Agency curtails trout season extension

FISHERMEN in Filey have accused the Environment Agency of putting their “livelihoods at risk” after it failed to recommend extending the sea trout fishing season.

Filey. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

A five-week consultation was held earlier this year after the government announced plans to reduce the sea trout netting season, which currently runs from April to July, in order to help preserve salmon stocks.

It followed “extensive” field trials last summer which saw the Environment Agency work closely with commercial netsmen to pilot a modified net designed to entangle sea trout but allow salmon to be released unharmed.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The agency said an “unequivocal” 93 per cent of responses to the consultation were opposed to extending the current sea trout netting season.

The group of six Filey fishermen remaining in the bay, known as ‘The Filey Few’, said the consultation failed to take into account their submission, which included a 25,000 signature petition, and said that fishery “which had been at the heart of Filey for over 1,000 years” was now in risk of being lost.

Filey Few spokesman Rex Harrison said: “We campaigned for two years to keep fishing in Filey – during that time we collected more than 25,000 signatures online and in-person. We submitted those signatures from the Filey fishermen into the consultation process – it’s not listed as a response. Public opinion was on our side.

“We’ve been fighting this battle since 2018, and we don’t understand why – our fishery is clean, low-impact and such an important part of the local community.”

Mr Harrison said Filey MP Kevin Hollinrake had now contacted the Fisheries Minister to investigate what happened with the petition, and the FIley Few were investigating any way in which they could appeal the decision.

The FIley Few said the Environment Agency trials last year showed roughly 90 salmon a year were caught alongside the 5,000 sea trout - “the majority of which are released alive within less than a minute of capture”.

The consultation document itself says the impact of the modified nets on salmon stocks was “low”.

Mr Harrison said the consultation results came at a time when Filey fisherman were facing “a tough year ahead”, with big-city markets currently shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: “Our best fishing months for sea trout are the summer months. We need to fish in August – we’ve shown we don’t impact salmon, and we’ll provide any data we need to, to help monitor sea trout stocks.

“My father was a fisherman – none of us have any interest in fishing in a damaging way. We just need enough time on the water to make a living.”

The Environment Agency told the Yorkshire Post it was never formally given the petition, either as part of the consultation or as separate correspondence.

Fishery programme manager for the Environment Agency, Jon Shelley, said: “We have taken a balanced view and identified a middle ground that provides the best solution for both netsmen and fish stocks s in the region

“Having reviewed the evidence and the feedback from the consultation responses, we have found it is not appropriate at this current time to recommend an extension to the sea trout netting season.

“The trials showed that the nets were successful in their objective and that the impact of the new nets on salmon stocks were low. But our latest assessment of the status of sea trout stocks identifies that many of them are at risk. Therefore, a precautionary management position is necessary.

“We will continue to monitor the performance of contributing stocks and the impact the fishery has upon them and should sea trout populations improve, we will review this position in the future.”