• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

INSIDE TRACK: Trouble and strife on the salmon run

Is there a living creature that has caused more strife down Scotland's centuries than the wild salmon?

It traditionally set laird against the agrarian poor. Later the organised industrial-poachers arrived on the scene from the cities, paying scant regard to the environment, landowner or local people.

The "king of fish" has also come between anglers, fish farmers and, of course, netters.

One way or another, they have all wanted to kill it, with the possible exception of fish farmers who are supposed only to be interested in rearing then killing the salmon in their cages.

However, as the season opens in different areas round the country, there does seem to have been a growing awareness that death is no more a healthy state for a fish than a man.

Most recently, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), in "a radical new policy move", announced it was advocating that no salmon be killed in Scotland, either by nets or rods, before May 15.

This is because the numbers of adult salmon returning to the rivers from the sea are so low. The ASFB says the earliest running fish are the most vulnerable.

Anglers aren't being asked to stop angling. However, rather than landing the salmon and taking it away, the advice is to release the fish back into the river. Catch and Release is to be the order of the day. But the ASFB also want netters to play their part, and to start netting as late as possible.

For the past 14 years the members of the Salmon Net Fishing Association of Scotland (SNFAS), has voluntarily agreed to postpone the start of its season by six weeks.

This has meant virtually no legal netting for salmon before April at the earliest, thereby protecting early-running spring salmon.

The body says it received little or no compensation from angling proprietors who benefitted directly from the netters' restraint.

Last year, the netters voted to end the blanket postponement to allow members to engage in local dialogue with their respective fishery boards about voluntary agreements.

The netters are also clearly irritated by the anglers appearing to claim some sort of moral high ground on the issue.

They argue that hooking a fish and playing it until it is exhausted before landing it only to return it to the river isn't particularly beneficial to the fish.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse has announced a major review of fisheries management and that coastal netting will be considered as part of this. This is welcomed by many. There are considerably more people angling than netting.

But the netters have their rights too, and those in both camps would find it hard to see why killing a salmon with a rod for sport rather than by a net for business is inherently a nobler pursuit.

It is also something of an irony that the arrival of the angler's other enemy, the fish farmer in the 1970s, heralding cheaper salmon, is one of the main reasons why there has been a sharp decline in netting around our coast.

Contextual targeting label: 
Pets

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

205655