A major new 1.8m GBP scientific study, the Celtic Sea Trout Project, has been launched by Elin Jones AM, the Rural Affairs Minister in Bangor, North Wales.

The study aims to discover more about the life and pressures on the sewin in the Irish Sea and in rivers and estuaries across Wales and Ireland.

The study is being led by experts at Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences and Biological Sciences working with Irish partners (led by the Central Fisheries Board of Ireland).

The information will be used to guide stock management policy and measures to increase the number of sewin in Welsh rivers.

The Celtic Sea Trout Project will build a comprehensive genetic database of young sewin caught in rivers, monitor the diet and movement of the sewin at sea and will result in a comprehensive investigation into the links between the environment, climate change and the sewin.

Anglers and netsmen will be a key part of the project sending scales for DNA sampling, measurements of the sewin they catch and where they caught them using a pack specifically designed for the project.

The number of sewin or sea trout in Welsh rivers, and across Ireland and the UK, have been noticeably 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 to improve their numbers. However, the numbers of sewin migrating up Welsh rivers is still a cause for concern.

It is a draw to visiting anglers with Wales having some of the best sewin rivers in Europe bringing in vital funds to the tourist industry in rural areas. It also supports a number of traditional historic net fisheries in Wales, like the coracle fishermen, providing an income for the fishermen and a further attraction for tourists.

It is estimated that recreational sport fishing in all its different forms generates some £148m a year to the Welsh economy.

“Elin Jones, Rural Affairs Minister Welsh Assembly Government, said:

“I am extremely grateful for the invitation to launch the Celtic Sea Trout Project at Bangor. Wales has long recognised the social, economic and cultural value and importance of sea trout or Sewin, as it is better known in Wales! The investigation conducted as part of the project into sea trout will contribute towards achieving one of the goals of the Wales Fisheries Strategy of maintaining healthy fish stocks supporting sustainable fisheries for future generations.“

Chris Mills, Director, Environment Agency Wales, said:

“Whilst, elsewhere the salmon is described as the king of fish, in Wales the sewin is even more highly prized. It provides a unique fishing experience drawing in fishermen from across the UK and further afield and has also provided an income for generations of traditional netsmen.

“We along with the Welsh Assembly Government and many rivers trusts have worked to improve the quality of rivers and create better habitats for sewin to spawn – but we can and will do more.

“This major study will give us a valuable insight into the lifecycle of the sewin, specifically out at sea, so we can develop further plans to improve the numbers migrating up rivers around the Irish Sea.”

This study is part-funded by the Ireland-Wales INTERREG IVA programme, with the Welsh Assembly Government, Environment Agency Wales and Governments in Ireland providing the match-funding. A number of rivers trusts and organisations in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and North West England will also contribute samples to the project.