Anglers fishing for salmon on the rivers Wye and Usk have been told to "carry on as you are" when the new fishing season starts on March 3.

The current National Salmon Byelaws, which have been in place for 20 years to protect early-running spring salmon, are due to expire on December 31.

Natural Resources Wales had hoped much stricter mandatory catch-and-release rules would be brought in by the Welsh Government but that has not yet happened.

Instead NRW has applied for, and achieved, the introduction of emergency byelaws which will operate from January 1 2019.

The new emergency byelaws will replicate the current level of protection for salmon stocks until a decision is made by Welsh Government following the Local Inquiry on NRW’s application for the introduction of more protective catch controls.

Peter Gough, NRW’s Principal Fisheries Advisor, said: “It was our intention that the new catch control byelaws would be in place by now to protect salmon and sea trout stocks, however that hasn’t happened and the expiry of the current National Salmon Byelaws would lead to less protection for early-running salmon.

“The levels of protection for both salmon and sea trout in 2019, as things are, would be some way below that which we deem necessary and there can be no certainty when new catch control byelaws may be introduced. This places stocks at further risk.

“To combat this, we are implementing emergency byelaws which will maintain the current level of protection of our salmon stocks and retain some protection for sea trout.”

The emergency byelaws require:

the close season for net fisheries ends on 31 May, except for those net fisheries dependant on sea trout (Tywi, Taf, Severn, Teifi and Dyfi) and which have been operating under a dispensation – which will continue;

the release of all salmon caught by nets before June 1;

the release of all salmon caught by rods before June 16;

no bait fishing for salmon before June 16.

The controls are intended to be in place for 12 months unless revoked or extended.

Given the timescales involved it is highly unlikely that any new catch control byelaws will be in place before the start of the 2019 fishing seasons, which for the Wye and Usk begin on March 3.

Peter added: “The salmon and Welsh sea trout are truly iconic fish. The very poor state of most salmon and many sea trout stocks in Wales, and how this might be addressed, has been the subject of much debate over the last three years.

“Our new catch control byelaw proposals are based mainly on mandatory catch-and-release fishing for salmon, amendments to netting seasons and method controls designed to ensure the majority of released fish survive to spawn.

“We have not taken the decision to call for these changes lightly, but we have every confidence in the evidence which led to us making this decision.

“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. In the meantime, preserving current protection through emergency byelaws is a vital step.”