Wild Fishery Protection Zone

Amy Ellis

Environment Agency plans to introduce a Wild Fishery Protection Zone (WFPZ) on the upper Itchen should be great news for wild fish populations. However, it also means significant changes for fishery managers who currently rely on stocking and the anglers who fish stocked stretches. We asked the Wild Trout Trust about the benefits of the proposal and how they are offering to help landowners adapt to the changes and thrive without the need to stock farmed trout.
“We believe that stopping the stocking of farmed fish on the Upper Itchen is an extremely positive step for wild trout conservation. There are fantastic wild trout fisheries both above and immediately below currently stocked beats and the Environment Agency’s WFPZ proposal gives them the high level of protection they need. Additionally, this proposal further strengthens the case for government agencies to make sure the Upper Itchen is protected from other human impacts such as water abstraction, licensed discharges, and diffuse pollution.
An end to stocking on the upper Itchen will see more space and less competition for wild-born trout, but we understand that for some owners, keepers, and anglers these changes will be concerning. We sincerely believe there can be both economic and ecological benefits to the WFPZ and the Wild Trout Trust is willing and able to help any landowner, tenant or individual angler to understand the implications and how best to manage the change to a sustainable wild trout fishery.
Our knowledge of the Itchen suggests that most sections of the river are capable of supporting high quality, sustainable trout fisheries without the need for stocking. However, there are undoubtedly some stretches where opportunities for trout recruitment are currently not ideal and will, at least initially, rely on fish moving in from areas with better spawning and juvenile habitat. This means that, in the long run, ensuring habitat is diverse and joined-up is going to be critically important for all the upper Itchen owners looking to maximize the benefits of the WFPZ.
The move from more traditional stocked beats to those that are capable of supporting wild fishing will no doubt require adjustments in the way the fisheries are managed practically, as well as the attitudes and aspirations of the paying rods. We have lots of experience in helping fishery owners, keepers and the anglers in making the necessary shift in management and mindset and would encourage anyone who feels that they would like some advice to get in touch.”
At the Wessex Rivers Trust we share the belief that the WFPZ is an exciting step forwards for the upper Itchen and we’re looking forward to seeing the long-term benefits to the ecology of the river. But we understand that the changes will be daunting for some, especially for long-established businesses that have been stocking fish for decades and whose clientele are very used to catching stocked fish. Like the Wild Trout Trust we see there is a real need to support fisheries through such a change and ensure that the WFPZ is a huge success for owners, keepers, and anglers as well as river and its inhabitants.