Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sea trout subject of 1.8m study

Sea trout (copyright: David Miller)
Sewin numbers have been declining in Welsh, Irish and Scottish rivers

A £1.8m scientific study is being launched to discover more about the life and pressures on the sewin or sea trout in Wales and Ireland.

Information from the Celtic Sea Trout Project will be used to guide stock management policy and measures to increase sewin in Welsh rivers.

It will also help show possible links between the environment, climate change and the fish.

The number of sea trout have been declining in recent years.

Work to improve their habitat, access to spawning grounds and limits on fishing in rivers have been put in place by Environment Agency Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to improve their numbers.

The scheme is launched on Thursday by the Welsh rural affairs minister, Elin Jones.

Ben Wilson, sustainable fisheries project manager for the Environment Agency in Wales, said a lot was known about the lives of trout and sea trout in rivers.

"We've got a big black box in terms of what happens out at sea," he added.

Fisherman (picture: Emyr Evans)
Fishing is a popular pastime in lakes and rivers in Wales

"This project is trying to do three things.

"We are trying to genetically tie the fish from our rivers so we know which fish come from which river, find out where they go at sea and then the effects of the environment on sea trout stocks.

"Particularly the impact climate change might have and how we can manage those stocks."

The project will build a comprehensive genetic database of young sewin caught in rivers, monitor the diet and movement of the sewin at sea.

Anglers and netsmen will be asked to help by sending in DNA samples from fish using packs designed for the project.

The Assembly Government said trout fishing is a draw to visiting anglers as Wales has some of the best sewin rivers in Europe.

It also supports a number of traditional historic net fisheries, like the coracle fishermen, providing an income for the fishermen and a further draw for tourists.

Angler Trevor Jones who fishes on the Menai Straits in north Wales said: "I think it's pretty crucial. Hopefully if this comes off and we find out what happens to the fish at sea we can say to future generations we did go a long way to saving the trout."

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