A major crackdown on salmon fishing in Scotland is looming amid growing fears over declining stocks, the Scottish Government has announced.
Many stretches of the country’s most popular rivers for wild Atlantic salmon could be restricted to catch and release only.
Environment minister Aileen McLeod has ruled out a charging regime and the deliberate killing of salmon though fishing will still be allowed in rivers where stocks remain high.
The Scottish Government’s approach has been welcomed by conservation groups who have argued against a blanket approach.
Dr McLeod said: “We have moved away from the idea of an individual licensing system and will not be pursuing the introduction of any charging regime. We will however be introducing the concept of a conservation plan in areas where salmon fail to achieve good conservation status.
“The marked decline in wild salmon stocks warrants a serious response and the Scottish Government is required under European rules to ensure our salmon fisheries are sustainable and compliant.
“Restrictions on our fisheries are never taken lightly but action to conserve stocks is, in the long term, essential to protect the sustainability of the communities and ecosystems that they support.”
The measures unveiled by the Government could see fishery districts and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) introduced to manage salmon stocks. Where stocks are under threat, fishing will be restricted to catch and release only, ending deliberate killing. Ministers say 93 per cent of rod-caught spring salmon were released in 2014, as was 82 per cent of the annual rod catch.
Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of Salmon and Trout Conservation (Scotland), last night welcomed the pragmatic approach.
He said: “We have long advocated that any exploitation of salmon should be limited to rivers and fisheries with a clear sustainable surplus.
“There is little point in creating a burdensome administrative system for rivers with healthy stocks.”