SCOTTISH wild salmon will join Champagne and Parmesan cheese in becoming a protected product within Europe, in a victory for the country's traditional salmon netters.
In 20 days, the fish will be covered by a protected geographical indication (PGI), meaning it has a particular quality attributable to its region of origin. As a result of the European Commission ruling, salmon caught in other countries cannot be packaged, sold or advertised as Scottish wild salmon.
Other products which can only be labelled as such if they come from the region where they take their name are Gorgonzola, Camembert, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Somerset cider.
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An application to register Stornoway black pudding on the PGI list is expected to be confirmed shortly.
To receive PGI status, an entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured within that region.
The Salmon Net Fishing Association of Scotland approached the Department of Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs to promote its bid to join other prime Scottish produce on the PGI list.
One of those behind the move was George Pullar, director of Montrose-based Usan Salmon Fisheries. He said salmon caught by rods could not be legally sold.
Mr Pullar added: "It has been up to the salmon netters to gain this PGI recognition for wild salmon. It is excellent news this traditional way of catching salmon has been recognised.
"It gives proper recognition for the netters who have been fishing this way since about 1850. It is a sustainable fishery which has been practised for generations and the salmon in pristine condition."
According to Scottish Government figures, there were 23 salmon netting sites in Scotland in 2010 – the majority of these in the Moray Firth and the east coast of the country. The main types of netting are bag and stake nets.
Bag nets are used on rocky shores and are fished from a flat- bottomed boat with a crew of three to five fishermen, while stake nets are used on sandy beaches and are fished by one person after they are set up.
Scottish farmed salmon were awarded PGI status in 2004.
Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, said: "PGI status has helped to enhance the reputation of farmed salmon in major export markets. It is a good promotional tool and helps to protect against imitation.
"The benefits extend far beyond Europe as Scottish farmed salmon has now been included in the initial prestigious top 10 of quality food and drinks chosen from a list of over 3000 European products in a pilot project between China and the European Commission."
Producers of Stornoway black pudding have been pleading for PGI status for two years and the product has now satisfied the commission's criteria but is awaiting the end of a six-month period where interested parties outwith the UK can object.
Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar is also in the same position.
l The whisky industry may benefit from trade agreements signed with Latin-American countries. The European Parliament ratified EU agreements with Colombia and Peru as well as Central American countries. It is hoped the move will ensure a level playing field.