Environment Minister introduces controversial salmon conservation measures

Salmon fishing legislation will change from April 1Salmon fishing legislation will change from April 1
Salmon fishing legislation will change from April 1
Scottish Government Environment Minister Aileen McLeod has introduced controversial changes to regulate the killing of wild salmon in Scotland, due to come into force on April 1

Dr McLeod said: “Our salmon is a valuable and important asset which we must protect and balance conserving stocks with the interests of those who fish for salmon. It is absolutely right that we take action now to protect our salmon stocks for the future. The changes have been subject to extensive consultation and we have listened and made some changes to the district classifications as a result of all the feedback we have received. I am confident we now have the right package of measures, including prohibitions on killing out-with estuary limits, inland waters being managed by conservation status and mandatory conservation plans, to ensure wild salmon have a sustainable future in our waters.”

But Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson MSP vehemently opposed the changes saying:

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Following the announcement that Scottish Government Minister Aileen McLeod is to introduce draconian measures aimed at salmon conservation on 1 April this year, Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Alex Fergusson MSP said:

“No-one in their right minds is against salmon conservation, but any conservation measures need to be based on sound science and introduced within a timescale that allows angling clubs, fishing proprietors and fishing related businesses time to adapt to them. The Scottish Government proposals will introduce a complete ban on catching salmon outwith river estuaries and a 100% catch-and-release only policy for the majority of Scottish rivers, including almost all west coast ‘spate’ rivers, which have been allocated arbitrary ‘conservation limits’.

“It is, however, becoming clearer by the day that the figures used to calculate these limits are badly flawed in that they are not based on correct or current local scientific data and use rod-catch return figures on ‘spate’ rivers – figures which simply do not give an accurate picture of the health or otherwise of salmon stocks”.

“To compound these matters, the Scottish Government has given a mere 10 weeks notice of the implementation of these regulations. Angling Clubs, proprietors and fishing related businesses will have already organised their activities for the coming season – activities that will have to be reviewed in their entirety if the Government goes ahead with its plans, as seems likely. They will also threaten the future of ancient cultural fishing methods such as Half Netting, which would be a tragedy”.

“Even if these measures were the right ones, they should be given more time to allow stakeholders to adjust accordingly. 10 weeks notice does not fulfil that requirement and I will be lodging a motion to annul the legislative instrument when it comes before Parliament in an effort to get the Government to see sense on this issue”.

Labour MSP Elaine Murray said: “This is a total sham from the SNP. They have failed to come up with any genuine research for our regions rivers, and yet are forcing through this ban anyway. What makes matters worse is that they claimed that they would fully engage with stakeholders in our region. Local angling and fishing clubs have done so, and presented sound research to the Scottish Government. The response has been to totally brush the submissions aside and continue with this attack on the regions fishing industry.

“Atlantic salmon conservation is of course vitally important. But local angling associations are already doing fantastic work in encouraging catch and release. They’re now being punished because of the guesswork of individuals sitting in Edinburgh. But this is also about other repercussions for our region. Travelling fishermen have previously frequented our region in good numbers. They would stay overnight in local B&B’s and Hotels, and spend money in local businesses. Who knows what kind of consequences this ban is going to have on our local economy.”

Key aspects of the changes are:

* Killing outwith estuary limits will be prohibited for three years due to the mixed stock nature of the fishery and limited data on the composition of the catch.

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* The killing of Atlantic salmon in inland waters will be managed on an annual basis by categorising fishery districts by their conservation status.

* The requirement for a Conservation Plan irrespective of the conservation status.

This story was taken from our sister paper The Galloway Gazette.