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Results from the latest report into UK salmon stocks

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Environment Agency

Salmon are a keystone species and an iconic indicator of a healthy, clean environment and highly valued by the general public and by those who fish for them. Every year, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales report on the state of our salmon stock levels, to help determine any actions that need to be taken to protect this species. The latest Salmon Stock Assessment for 2022 shows that Wild Atlantic salmon stocks remain a cause for concern in England, with results showing a marginal improvement from last year.

There are many factors impacting salmon both within freshwater and the marine environment. Our changing climate is resulting in significant changes in the marine environment as well as driving warmer winter river temperatures. Other pressures come from marine and coastal fisheries exploitation, barriers to the free movement of salmon through our river systems and the habitat and water quality and flow in our rivers and estuaries which are all vital to salmon throughout their lifecycle.

The Environment Agency remains committed to improving the future outcomes for our salmon, actively working to update and develop a new salmon implementation plan for England. We are engaging with NGOs, angling organisations and other key stakeholders and interested parties to develop this, taking into account all of the pressures facing salmon. Work is also taking place to improve water quality and reduce the exploitation of salmon by both net and rod fisheries. What is clear is that the EA cannot achieve all of the required actions in isolation and collaborative working is at the heart of efforts to improve conditions in both freshwater and the marine environment for the benefit of saving salmon for future generations.

Kevin Austin, Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment for the Environment Agency said: 

Today’s assessment of Wild Atlantic Salmon populations in England’s rivers remains a serious cause for concern. Although a great deal has already been done by EA and others to protect stocks here in England, climate change, marine exploitation and barriers to fish passage are all significantly impacting the numbers of salmon returning to our rivers to spawn.

Coordinated action between governments, partners and industry will be needed to alleviate the combined impact of these pressures and prevent the extinction of this iconic species in our lifetimes. The EA will continue to work with others and use our funding and regulatory powers to give salmon the best chance of survival.

The latest results show that Wild Atlantic salmon stocks remain a cause for concern in England, with 85% of the 42 salmon rivers in England categorised as being ‘at risk’ (71%) or ‘probably at risk’ (14%). This is a marginal improvement from last year's results which found 88% at risk.

While overall salmon stocks have not declined from 2021 they continue to be at unsustainable levels. This assessment warns that without future collaborative action, Wild Atlantic Salmon could be lost from our rivers in our lifetimes.

The role of the EA

The EA regulates commercial and recreational fisheries for salmon and, in recent years, has closed all commercial salmon net fisheries in England. In 2019 we implemented the closure of salmon net fisheries in England until at least 2029, and the anglers we work alongside have delivered an overall catch and release rate in rod fisheries of 95% through both voluntary and mandatory controls. The current stock assessments suggest that many rivers in England should have minimal exploitation of salmon and the EA is actively considering options to maximise future adult salmon spawning success.


Our work to remove migratory barriers, improve water quality and reduce exploitation has already seen some real successes, particularly on the river Ouse, Don and Tyne. In the last year, the EA has improved numerous fish passes at weirs or barriers across English rivers giving salmon better access to spawning grounds. A new 200m fish pass at Colwick on the River Trent is also due to be completed later this year, which will become the country’s largest fish pass restoring miles of river and aiding migration.


To safeguard river flow and improve water quality, the EA has also identified improvements through the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP). In 2022, we completed 137 schemes that will bring benefits to salmon. 73 of these were on our Principal Salmon Rivers and 64 on recovering salmon rivers. The schemes were predominantly to investigate the impact of water quality, flow and physical modification pressures. In 2023, there are 21 investigation and improvement schemes scheduled on both Principal Salmon Rivers and recovering salmon rivers.  


Ensuring clean and plentiful water is one of the biggest challenges we face and is a priority for the Environment Agency and government – and needs to be for everyone else too. In 2023, the EA has already concluded five prosecutions of water companies – 4 for pollution offences and 1 for over-abstraction, with more prosecutions progressing in court. The EA has also launched a major criminal investigation into possible unauthorised spills at thousands of sewage treatment works, operated by all water companies that discharge into English waters.

The Environment Agency, Defra and key partner organisations continue to deliver on the Salmon Five Point Approach and NASCO’s implementation plan to co-ordinate effort and drive forward actions that will benefit all aspects of the salmon life cycle. But we still have a way to go, and collaborative action is needed to improve the quality of river habitats to stabilise and allow salmon populations to recover. Anyone with an interest in Atlantic salmon should talk to us and our partners to help us develop a new salmon action implementation plan. This will seek to address both existing and emerging threats that limit salmon population recovery. 


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  1. Comment by John posted on

    Thank you for the update and apologies if missed but who is on point for fish farms as there appears to be significant evidence that lice from these farms is a contributing factor to the decline is stock numbers?

  2. Comment by Richard Dargavel posted on

    The 2023 results will be truly awful I am afraid

  3. Comment by Kevin Styles posted on

    But still the water companies continue to pollute our rivers. You have the audacity to call yourself the environment agency ! Everything is in decline except your wages and pensions. Myself and thousands of others think you are not fit for purpose, you have achieved nothing to suggest different .

    • Replies to Kevin Styles>

      Comment by Phil posted on

      Well said Kevin I couldn'tagree more, all our rod licences money goes on restocking fish killed from the greed of water companies. Its not good enough!

  4. Comment by Phil posted on

    Be much more proactive in putting pressure on water companies releasing shite in rivers. Also get on the governments case about all the shite farms release into England's water!

  5. Comment by David Tait posted on

    There are 11 water companies in England and Wales. All of them are guilty of NOT protecting our rivers and indeed are doing the opposite - actively and knowingly discharging raw sewage into our waterways on an hourly basis. Yet the Environment Agency seems proud to announce four prosecutions for pollution offences!!!!
    Come on; that’s a disgrace.
    Also, why are so many water companies owned by foreign companies based in tax havens? eg Northumbrian Water.
    Water companies should be publicly owned and not for profit and certainly shouldn’t be paying out millions in dividends every year.
    Take a look at what is happening to the largest lake in the UK (it’s in Northern Ireland).
    Get your act together EA and British Government.

  6. Comment by Horace Hammerm posted on

    None of this can be taken seriously until the continuing pollution by water companies result in the criminal convictions of their senior executives and fines sufficient to repair the damage they do.
    These companies have apparently received huge amounts of government funding to deal with the problem and simply passed the money to shareholders.

  7. Comment by David Thomas posted on

    Instead of hunting for idiots that don't pay their £33 licence, you should be hunting for the water companies raking in millions while they freely practice complete disregard for the environment

  8. Comment by Michael Riley posted on

    Would it be possible to use the Salmon farms to get some spawn and release it high up in the rivers so as to compensate for the loss of natural spawning

  9. Comment by Peter Astbury posted on

    Totally agree with Kevin Styles, total audacity by EA and government departments, 34 years of running things to the ground. What other sensible country would sell off its water? How many reservoirs have been built since the sell off? None I would think.

  10. Comment by JohnM posted on

    I have fished for salmon and trout on and off for over 60 years and have noticed over that period a very significant increase in fish eating birds and mammals on our rivers including cormorants, goosanders, herons, egrets and mink (although mink numbers seem to be declining now) and at the same time a very significant reduction in the numbers of juvenile salmon and trout. Bearing in mind the number of mostly small fish that these species need to consume in order to survive, there must surely be a direct link between the number of predators and the survival of fish stocks, particularly salmon which are also under pressure elsewhere. Yet this is not mentioned at all in the article. I appreciate that control of predatory wildlife is a sensitive issue, but difficult issues must be acknowledged and addressed if any improvement in salmon stocks is to be achieved.

  11. Comment by Alan Porter posted on

    Why is the agency spending more money on Salmon? Most anglers are not Salmon fishermen, they are coarse fishermen. Surely the bulk of the funds should be spent on improving non-salmon rivers?

  12. Comment by Peter Chase posted on

    Absolutely spot on Kevin. Couldn’t have said it better. Every where I go birds, fish, wildlife, habitats are in decline and all we get is more schemes to investigate. When are we going to start taking serious step changes to stop the decline?

  13. Comment by Paul mallen posted on

    The EA appears to be spending more employee time and hence public money on avoiding accountability and trying to mitigate public criticism, than on performing the job they are employed to do.
    The public don’t want glossy reports and endless graphs based on fiction…..they want clean rivers!

  14. Comment by Glyn Marshall posted on

    I have been trying to work with the EA for a number of years on the river Severn as coordinator of the Severn Fisheries Group. It’s been like pushing water up hill!! They will not engage fully with anglers on salmon stocks. There is a national agenda to drive salmon anglers off rivers. Even though we are the ones who know the issues on our rivers and see running fish. I started the Angling Trust Water Quality Monitoring Network as a pilot on the Severn. Water quality, habitat destruction and predation are the issues. Office bound mangers make decisions on all angling with lack of knowledge of individual rivers.

  15. Comment by Disillusioned samon angler! posted on

    The Agency is overmanaged and under-manned at the front line as far as salmon stock management is concerned. The primary issues that the EA can deal with (marine phase excepted) regarding enhancement of salmon numbers, should be to ensure that the spawning environment access to headwaters for adult salmon is increased, and that for juveniles meets good water quality and ecological standards , whilst controls on avian predation are implemented to prevent losses pre migration. Yet monitoring of illegal sewage spills and point source agricultural pollution by EA field staff is sparse in the extreme.
    The restrictions on angler fishing methods and tackle will reduce catches below historical levels -the cornerstone of estimating the returning adult numbers and trends in numbers. Statutory catch and release -given existing high voluntary levels will discourage anglers, whilst making little or no difference to returning adult numbers spawning. Both measures something of an own goal and undermining the credibility of catch data in estimating salmon stocks, unless of course this is the aim, to ensure that the message of missing salmon can be further emphasised. Without enthusiastic anglers there is a sad future for the salmon.
    Finally, the EA transparency is lamentable in releasing the key assumptions that underpin its salmon stock analysis regarding angler exploitation of stocks. Who can really trust its analysis and estimates when they refuse to release the information. Better rename the EA as the ECA -Environment Cover-up Agency.

  16. Comment by Humphries posted on

    The EA are our statutory regulators and have a duty to protect Atlantic Salmon stocks and the waters they live in….unfortunately I believe they are lacking transparency on all fronts and should be held accountable.
    There’s no one as blind as someone who doesn’t want to see.

  17. Comment by John Burgon posted on

    It is extraordinary that salmon farming isn't specifically listed as a major threat. It isn't the only factor but it certainly is one of them. Just because the salmon farming lobby is so strong is not a reason to turn a blind eye.
    The Agency should be far more concerned with factors that offer improvements in the short term, otherwise their long term plans will be worthless if salmon are basically extinct.
    Sort out the water polluters, the salmon farms, the water extractors, and the predators right now. It might be a hot potato politically but it must be done.


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