THE SCOTTISH Government has been accused of failing to comply with a European law that aims to protect Atlantic salmon from netting operations.
The Salmon and Trout Association (STA), a conservation group, claims populations in Scottish rivers designated as Special Areas of Conservation are under threat. It has submitted a formal complaint to the European Union.
A spokesman said the lack of progress was “graphically exposed” at the annual meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (Nasco) in Saint-Malo, France, last week.
The meeting heard coastal salmon netting was increasing in Scotland and that, in stark contrast to almost all other Atlantic salmon-producing nations, it has almost no management regime in place to prevent it.
Nasco says there is no adequate mechanism to limit catches – whatever the strength or weakness of local populations.
The organisation’s special session on salmon netting heard there had been a leap in the coastal salmon netting catch in 2013 and that, in the past three years, Scotland’s largest netting company, Usan Fisheries, had acquired the fishing rights to an additional 12 miles of coastline.
STA chairman Hugh Campbell Adamson said: “It is disappointing Marine Scotland’s senior civil servant with responsibility for coastal salmon netting was unable to attend the Nasco meeting.
“Had he been there, he would then have appreciated that Scotland is now widely recognised as a pariah because of its lamentable record on salmon protection and that it is widely perceived as not taking its international obligations seriously. It is the only major producer of wild salmon in the North Atlantic that is actually presiding over an increase in coastal salmon netting.”
He added: “Given the Scottish Government’s intransigence on dealing with coastal netting, we have been left with no viable option but to take the matter to a higher authority and submit a complaint to Europe”.
STA chief executive officer Paul Knight said: “Such indiscriminate exploitation should have no place in the 21st century.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to meeting our international obligations on salmon management. Nasco does not prescribe the approaches to management of home water fisheries nor does it require that netting for salmon is stopped.”
A spokesman for Usan Fisheries refused to comment.