Extending the salmon fishing on the River Ure would be a major boost for Yorkshire Dales tourism, according to MP Rishi Sunak.
Fishing for salmon in the Wensleydale river is currently restricted to between April and October.
The Richmond MP wants it to start earlier, at the beginning of February, bringing it into line with other major salmon rivers around the UK.
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Salmon stocks in the River Ure have recovered dramatically in recent years thanks to reduced industrial pollution of the Ouse river system which the Ure flows into and the removal of obstacles to the salmon’s return to its spawning grounds from the ocean.
Mr Sunak, the MP for Richmond, believes starting the season earlier would much bring much-needed trade to hotels, pubs, B&Bs and other tourist-dependent businesses at what is usually a quiet time of the year.
He is backing a campaign initiated by the Ure Salmon Group and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust which are working to increase the number of migratory fish – salmon and trout – in the river with habitat improvements and a juvenile salmon hatchery.
Mr Sunak said: “The recovery of the Ure as a salmon river is an environmental success story which could become a huge economic success story for our area.
“The burgeoning salmon population is already attracting anglers and will attract many more if we can extend the season. At present we have nine weeks of income potential for businesses being lost because, uniquely in the North of England, Yorkshire’s season starts in April.”
Following a meeting with local Environment Agency officials who are responsible for the byelaws setting the dates of the fishing season, Mr Sunak has written to the chairman and chief executive of the agency urging swift action to correct the anomaly.
He has also asked the Agency to consider according the River Ure the status of a Principal Salmon River. Enhanced status wold require the agency to establish a Salmon Action Plan for the river which would further assist its recovery.
His move was welcomed by Philip Ellis, a salmon guide and member of the Ure Salmon Group.
He said: “The Ure is rapidly establishing itself as one of this country’s leading salmon fisheries. Last year it was the 17th best performing river out of 64 in England and Wales.
“The potential is enormous. We have seen how the recovery of the River Tyne salmon fishery has boosted the rural economy there and we can do the same thing here in Yorkshire.”
“We know many Yorkshire anglers head north for Scottish rivers in February and March for increasingly poor returns in recent years. If we can extend the season for the Ure, they can come here instead and boost our local tourism industry.
Mr Ellis said extending the season would not harm stocks because anglers cannot take salmon from the river before June 16. Before that, any salmon caught have to returned to the river unharmed.