04 Jun Tamar salmon fishery
Subscription Library member Dr Ann Pulsford gave a talk at the Wharf on Monday 13 January as part of the Teatime Talks series on the ‘Tamar Salmon Fishery’. The talk summarised the life cycle of the Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, which feeds in the plankton rich waters of the North Atlantic and breeds in the River Tamar and its tributaries. Concern about the rapidly declining numbers of Atlantic salmon led to a 10 year complete net fishing ban in 2004 on the Tamar which is due to be lifted in 2014. However, continuing concern for the breeding stocks mean this ban is unlikely to be lifted, although limited rod fishing is permitted. The Environment Agency is also carrying out a monitoring programme of salmon stocks at the weir at Gunnislake with a fish counter and trap.
Various other conservation measures have been implemented including cleaning the breeding gravels in the Tamar headwaters and restocking the river with juvenile parr from the salmon hatchery at Endsleigh. This hatchery was originally set up to supplement the Tamar salmon stocks which had been severely affected by the pollution resulting from the extensive mineral mining in the C18th and early C19th in the Tamar Valley.
The former ‘Endsleigh Cottage’ was used from the early C19th up to the early C20th in the summer as a holiday cottage by many members of the Bedford family who were also keen on fishing in the Tamar. In 1906 the 11th Duke (Hebrand Russell) and Duchess (Mary Tribe, the ‘flying duchess’) of Bedford sent some salmon smolts from the Endsleigh hatchery to the Marine Biological Association (MBA) Laboratory in Plymouth, in order for them to do some experiments on the feeding habits of the salmon smolts. These juvenile fish are the sea going phase in the salmon life cycle. The Bedford’s wanted information on how long the juvenile fish took to reach sexual maturity. The aim was probably to bypass the seagoing stage so that they could restock the River Tamar with the salmon that had matured in the MBA aquarium. The experiment had limited success and the mature salmon were released back into Plymouth Sound in 1908.
A member of the audience has memories of his grandfather who had worked at the Endsleigh hatchery for the Dukes of Beford and has some photographs of the original salmon hatchery.
Any further information or reminiscences of the Tamar salmon fishery would be welcomed by Dr Ann Pulsford; please contact:firstname.lastname@example.org