Battle royal over salmon fishing as villagers fight for 'ancient rights'

MORE than 600 years ago the tiny fishing hamlet of Inverbervie was elevated to the privileged status of a Royal Burgh by a grateful King David II after local fishermen came to his rescue when his ship was wrecked on the rugged Mearns coastline.

The Royal decree he granted in 1342 gave villagers the right to "tak reid fish" - salmon - from the mouth of the River Bervie which flows into the North Sea at the Kincardineshire town.

But now furious residents claim their ancient fishing rights are under threat from plans by the Dee District Salmon Fisheries Board to bring in the angling association from nearby Stonehaven to run the fishery on a stretch of the river where it is claimed locals have been poaching salmon by using illegal lead weighted lines to "rip" the fish from the water.

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Officials on the fisheries board claim they secured the fishing rights for the mouth of the river four years ago when they bought out the local salmon coastal netting station.

But they are awaiting solicitors' advice on whether their rights supersede those of the Royal Charter, before bringing in the Stonehaven and District Angling Association to take over control.

Alastair Reid, an 81-year-old pensioner from Inverbervie, who has fished the river all his life, is leading the campaign to have the provisions of the Royal Charter upheld. "The people will not stand by and let them destroy something they were given freely so many years ago by Royal Charter. Those rights have never been rescinded," he said.

"We don't want outsiders coming down here and trying to control what happens on our river.

"The people of 'Bervie' know how it should be properly run by ourselves."

However, Dave MacDonald, the secretary of the Stonehaven and District Angling Association, said: "The problem is that a very, very small minority in Inverbervie seem to think the Royal Charter gives them carte blanche to take fish by any means possible - by the back, by the tail, by the stomach - you name it. They are ripping the salmon from the river.

"There is a hard-core minority at Inverbervie who don't fish legally for salmon but simply poach them."

Mr MacDonald added: "We don't want to take away ancient rights. What we want to do is regulate what is happening and stop illegal poaching."


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PROFESSOR Roddy Paisley, an expert in commercial property law at Aberdeen University, said the people of Inverbervie may well have the right to carry on fishing free under their Royal Charter granted by King David II, below.

He said:

"The Salmon Act is directly relevant to whether or not people are fishing in a proper way but it will not say who is entitled to fish.

"Royal Charters may still be valid. If it is the case that the Royal Charter was originally granted and the people of Inverbervie have continued to exercise these rights, then this is a perfectly legitimate right and it will stand. There is a potential here that both of these rights could be valid. There could be a grant of salmon fishing, but it cannot take away a right already granted."

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