The Atlantic Salmon and its future in UK Rivers
There had been much written and much more again said about the Wild Fisheries Review taking place in Scotland and the impact that this would have on people going to fish in Scotland.
One of the most controversial proposal was the introduction of a “kill licence”.
The main proposals for the 2016 season were:
1) All salmon netting in the sea out-with estuary limits will be stopped completely.
2) Net and coble fisheries can continue within estuary limits but will be subject to a quota system with carcass tags. The quotas should fall in time.
3) The killing of salmon by anglers will also be regulated by a quota system and carcass tags.
4) Salmon angling on a catch and release basis is not affected for the time being, although in future method restrictions might be considered.
5) None of this applies to sea trout. Salmon only.
However, in the face of much criticism from anglers and strong representation from the various rivers in Scotland a second round of consultation is to take place and the consensus is that this is a much more balanced, workable and measured proposal.
Simply put, the current round of consultation focuses on conservation status.
In response to extensive consultation on salmon kill licence proposals over the past six months, the Scottish Government will now further consult on revised proposals on the following salmon conservation measures:
The killing of salmon will be managed on an annual basis by categorising fishery districts and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in relation to their conservation status;
Fishing out with estuary limits will be prohibited for a period of three years followed by a review;
Steps to reduce killing of salmon will be required in areas where salmon are in moderate conservation status;
The killing of salmon will be allowed in areas in good conservation status;
Conservation plans will be required in areas where salmon fail to meet good conservation status;
Fishing will be restricted to catch and release only, ending deliberate killing, in areas where salmon are in poor conservation status. To put this in context, 93 per cent of rod caught spring salmon were released in 2014, as was 82 per cent of the annual rod catch.
The killing of salmon will be allowed where the species is in good conservation status, restricted in areas of moderate conservation status and limited to catch and release only where the conservation status is poor.
The killing of salmon will be managed on an annual basis by categorising fishery districts and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in relation to their conservation status.
As Andrew Douglas-Home succinctly put it “The basic principle is this; if you are concerned as to the conservation status of your salmon stocks, quotas are not the answer, you should be killing nothing at all.
If, on the other hand, your stock conservation limits are fine, then there is nothing wrong with rods killing what is, even if they killed everything they catch, in the summer and autumn, no more than 10% of the stock, so inefficient, as a way of catching salmon, is rod fishing anyway.
As rods habitually now return up to 80% of what is caught, the actual kill rate by rods is well under 5%, a biologically insignificant figure (so I am told by our most eminent biologist).”
The discipline of having to monitor and prove your conservation levels annually, by assessing rod catches and rigorous investigation of juvenile populations over the whole catchment, is a good one and one which the Tweed has been doing for many decades already.
This latest consultation period ended on 29 October, 2015 and the full details can be found here http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Salmon-Trout-Coarse/fishreform/licence
Hopefully, in the not too distant future we will have a solution that does not wholly redesign the way rivers are managed in Scotland, that does not create a huge administrative (and unnecessary burden) on both rivers and Government and allows anglers to go forward into coming season with their attention fully focussed on the task at hand, namely catching fish and enjoying the battery re-charging break and unrivalled beauty that fishing in Scotland offers.