THE sight of traditional coracle fishermen on the River Teifi is coming under increasing threat.

New byelaws set to come into effect on January 1 will mean the Teifi Netsmen will have to release all salmon they catch, while the season to catch sea trout is being shortened – although the costs of a licence has not been reduced.

The new regulations have been introduced by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in what they say is a necessary move to preserve dwindling fish stocks.

There are currently 12 licence holders left on the Teifi and Mark Dellar, from the Teifi Netsmen, fears that number will continue to shrink and that the historic method of fishing could eventually disappear.

“I am relatively new to this but you have guys there who have been doing this most of their lives – but it’s a way of life that is disappearing,” said Mark.

“We are still being asked to pay £248 for a licence but they are cutting the length of our season by two months and we cannot catch salmon.

“We understand the salmon catch and release ruling to try to protect stocks but they are also taking a lot of the season off us to catch sewin.

“Coracles on the Teifi is such an important part of the area’s heritage and history. It is classed as a profession but for many now it’s a hobby and not for money, yet they still want the full licence fee.

“I have a 15-year-old son who has started fishing with me but the sad reality is that when he is old enough, there will be no coracle fishermen left.

“It should be such an asset to the area. Look at the Carmarthen guys on the Tywi. They have a visitor centre, heritage stuff, go into schools etc.”

An NRW spokesperson said: “The new salmon and sea trout byelaws have received Ministerial approval and will come into effect on 1st January 2020 in Wales. The net fishing byelaws will have the effect of shortening some seasons and requiring the release after capture of all salmon.

“Stocks of both salmon and sea trout (particularly early running sea trout) have been in decline for several years and it is now important that spawning escapement is protected.

“We do not anticipate that the byelaws will have a significant impact on overall catches, and therefore income, of most net fishermen, but we are clear that the fish stocks must be conserved. We do not therefore consider it appropriate to change the duties now.

“We are, however, committed to a full review of the net duties ahead of the 2021 season and will be seeking further input from all netsmen as well as other stakeholders when this process begins.

“In conjunction with the new byelaws we are continuing to work with our partners to improve salmon and sea trout stocks. Initiatives include working with the agricultural community to reduce slurry entering water courses and better targeting of enforcement activity.

“The byelaws have a ‘sunset’ clause and will expire in 10 years. We are committed to a review of the byelaws after 5 years.