Fishery stocks have reached an “unprecedented” low across Wales prompting one agency to consider drastic measures to halt the decline.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) say that the number of salmon and sea trout in Welsh rivers have continued to fall and “threatens the future” of many fisheries.
To tackle the decline NRW are considering several actions including the mandatory catch and release under certain conditions and bans on certain fishing equipment.
NRW’s executive director of evidence policy and permitting, Ceri Davies, said: “The decline in number of salmon and sea trout migrating back into most of our rivers is now so serious that we need to give more adult fish the chance to spawn if we are to ensure the survival of the species in Welsh waters.
“We have already asked anglers and nets men to voluntarily release the salmon they catch and we feel it’s time to introduce further controls on fishing for salmon and sea trout.”
NRW estimate that fisheries are worth around £150m to the Welsh economy and support around 1,500 jobs.
The Welsh Government sponsored body is now running a consultation until November 14 2017 on what can be done to increase stocks.
Proposals for new byelaws that would last for 10 years include shortening the netting season, introducing size limits and restricting certain methods so that released fish have a good chance of survival.
Out of the 23 salmon rivers in Wales, 21 are failing to reach targets and are either ‘at risk’ or ‘probably at risk’ according to assessments in 2016.
Ms Davies said: “After carefully considering the wide ranging views and evidence, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to take salmon while stocks are in such a perilous state.
“We have not taken the decision to call for these changes lightly and we realise that these measures on their own will not resolve the complex issue of declining salmon stocks.
“We want to work with the angling and net fishing communities to protect our fish and fisheries for future generations to enjoy and the introduction of new controls will be a positive step in helping protect stock.”
For sea trout two thirds, 21 of the 33, of rivers assessed are vulnerable and require additional protection.