Fishermen using a 400-year-old method have said plans to make them release their catches to preserve salmon stocks could threaten their future.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said its catch and release proposal could halt the decline of salmon stocks in Wales.
But Black Rock Fishery, near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, said its lave net fishing technique meant the fish would not be fit to be returned to the water.
NRW said no changes were proposed for the Black Rock lave net fishery.
The Angling Trust has already said anglers would be unfairly penalised by the proposal.
The eight lave net fishermen who fish the Severn Estuary between the two Severn crossings are also concerned about its impact.
Fishery secretary Martin Morgan called the proposals a “huge worry”.
“We don’t know whether we have a future or not,” he said.
Lave net restrictions
- Eight fishermen wade into the water and use large hand-held triangular nets to catch salmon
- Their fishing season is between 1 June and 31 August
- They are restricted to catching 15 salmon a season as a group
- They can only fish on the spring tide every other week, for a maximum of two hours and when the weather is calm
The fishery is described as a “living history” group and does not operate commercially.
Mr Morgan said the group would stop fishing if the catch and release plan came into operation because fish can be injured when they are caught in the lave nets.
“If we threw the salmon back in, they wouldn’t survive for very long,” said the former steelworker.
“We are restricted, as a group, to catching 15 salmon a season and are not affecting the salmon stocks at all.
“It would be a shame to see an important part of Welsh fishing heritage being lost for forever – a skill that has been taught in Wales for more than 400 years.”
Black Rock Fishery’s licence to fish on the Severn is due for renewal.
Mr Morgan said the group, started by his great-grandfather 100 years ago, was in a state of “limbo”.
The Welsh Fisherman’s Association has urged Black Rock Fishery to engage in the NRW consultation because “at this stage it is just a proposal”.
But Peter Gough, principal fisheries advisor for NRW, said no changes were currently proposed for the Black Rock Fishery.
“We believe that salmon caught at Black Rock come from the River Wye stock which has seen an improvement thanks to excellent partnership work with the Wye and Usk Foundation over the past 20 years,” he said.
“Because of these improvements, including past catch controls, the River Wye salmon stock is currently considered ‘not at risk’.
“This would mean that our suggested catch and release proposals would not be triggered.
“However, similar measures introduced on the Wye in 2012 will continue as stock recovery continues.”