Salmon plan will end with all catches returned claim
Plans to halt stocking Welsh rivers with salmon raised in hatcheries will end with anglers being forced to return their catches, it is being claimed.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is consulting on plans to close three of its own salmon hatcheries in Wales.
But the owner of one of the largest private salmon hatcheries in Wales says the proposal will ultimately lead to a ban on anglers keeping salmon catches.
However, that view has been challenged by others in the industry.
Viv Bradshaw, who runs the Llyn-y-Fan trout and salmon hatchery at Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, said he opposed the moves by NRW.
He told BBC Radio Wales' Country Focus programme that he believed it would mean fewer salmon in Welsh waters.
"It's self-evident what is going to happen," he argued.
"I think in two or three years time, we stop stocking. The next thing we'll see on the horizon is mandatory catch and release - without a doubt."
NRW announced at the beginning of the month that it was beginning consultation on its hatcheries plan.
It would see its centres near Corwen, Dolgellau and Llanidloes shut, while a fourth near Brecon could be converted into a research centre.
It follows a review that found the current policy of restocking rivers with salmon was ineffective.
"We've looked at over a hundred pieces of research which all seem to be suggesting this is no longer the best way forward," said Ceri Davies, from NRW.
"So we've proposed that we discontinue salmon stocking in Wales and close our hatcheries, so that we can concentrate on doing other activities to promote salmon stocks in Wales."
Measures would include habitat restoration, water quality improvements, and removal of barriers to fish migration, said the NRW.
The approach has been welcomed by another body in the salmon business, the Wye and Usk Foundation.
Executive director Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith said: "We've been dying for this to happen. It is very questionable whether hatcheries actually work.
"The scientists will tell you too much inbreeding and various genetic problems result from hatcheries."
He also disputed the claim by Mr Bradshaw that the move would end with a ban on keeping salmon catches.
"I don't think that is going to be the case," he said, pointing out that hatcheries often source breeding stock from the wild.
"When you take fish out of the river to go to a hatchery, you are depleting somewhere else, and that's the part of the equation that nobody does the sums for."
The NRW consultation runs until the end of May.