The fishery currently leases the use of the estuary from NRW and is required to apply for its individual licences on an annual basis.
“Their current 10-year lease allows them to catch a maximum of 15 salmon between June-August,” said an NRW spokesperson.
The fishermen have recently applied for a 2020 summer license. However, NRW says that due to new bye laws, the future of fishery is uncertain.
“Last month new bye laws were introduced for all rod and net fishermen operating in and close to Welsh rivers,” said the NRW spokesperson.
“These allow fishing to continue but require mandatory catch-and-release fishing in which salmon are released alive to continue their breeding migrations.
“Before we renew their licences, we are required under the Habitats Directive to undertake a HRA.
“The purpose of this assessment is to identify whether the activity will have an adverse effect on the integrity of a site.
“We are in the process of concluding the HRA and have sent this out for consultation to other statutory bodies who jointly manage the Severn Estuary.”
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However, Martyn Morgan, secretary of Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery, claims that the Severn Estuary is exempt from the new bye laws as it does not fall under the classification of a Welsh river.
“The bye laws are for Welsh rivers, not the Severn Estuary,” he said.
“‘Close to Welsh rivers’ was never part of said bye laws.
“We were prevented from speaking and presenting evidence by NRW at the public inquiry at Newtown in Powys for that exact reason.”
Despite this, NRW have said that they believe the fishery’s work on the estuary is endangering salmon stocks.
“Although it is only a small number of salmon killed by the lave net fishermen, the evidence shows that the stock in local rivers is threatened,” said the NRW spokesperson.
“Every spawning fish matters and even small additions to the stock can make a big difference.
“We understand that the fishery is an important part of the area’s history and we and we want to work with the fisherman to allow them to be able to continue this tradition, whilst also ensuring the sustainability of salmon stocks.
“We are currently in discussions with the fishermen about how we can secure the future of the fishery, and the sustainability of salmon stocks for future generations.”
Mr Morgan said that the focus on the fishery was “incredible” and noted that the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station downstream would have a far greater impact on wildlife than their ancient craft.
“Our impact may be deemed by NRW as unacceptable when projects such as Hinkley C nuclear power station down stream of us will kill a minimum of 650,000 plus fish a year,” he said.
“That is seen as sustainable.
“Our catch for the whole fishery is between two and eight salmon per season during the past 25 years, that sustains our fishery and way of life.
“If NRW further restrict us, we see that as discrimination against our method of fishing.
“After all, the fishery divisions of the Environment Agency and NRW have closed down every other traditional fishery on the Severn Estuary over the past decades.”