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Salmond sets up review on wild fisheries

AN independent review will look at the "complex and emotive area" of how Scotland's wild fisheries are managed, the First Minister has said.

GOOD LUCK: Alex Salmond tastes the whisky before dousing boats with it to wish them and their passengers well for the coming salmon season on the River Tay. Picture: Stewart Attwood
GOOD LUCK: Alex Salmond tastes the whisky before dousing boats with it to wish them and their passengers well for the coming salmon season on the River Tay. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Alex Salmond, who opened the salmon season on the Tay by casting the first fly on the river at Dunkeld, said Andrew Thin, the outgoing chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), had been asked to chair an independent review of wild fisheries.

He said its aims would be to "develop and promote a modern, evidence-based management system" fit for the 21st century and capable of responding to the changing environment. It would also help to maximise the benefit to the country as a whole, and particularly to rural areas.

Mr Salmond said: "We are committed to supporting and protecting Scotland's famous and valuable salmon and fresh­water fisheries. Game and coarse angling is worth £134 million in expenditure to Scottish economy, supporting 2800 jobs across the country.

"However, management of wild fisheries is a complex and emotive area that has been the subject of multiple reports and investi­gations over the last 50 years, but, until recently, has seen little meaningful change."

The First Minister said the Aquaculture And Fisheries Act had "modernised governance and management of salmon fisheries", but he said ministers had acknowledged more must to be done to ensure the system for wild fisheries is "robust, sustainable and fit for purpose in the 21st century, as well as being able to respond to the changing environment".

"I am happy to announce the next stage is to undertake an independent review of the management of wild fisheries in Scotland," he said.

"This review is about looking forwards, not backwards, and will be founded on what is required to ensure a sustainable wild fishery in Scotland."

Mr Thin, who will start work on the review in March after he has left SNH, said he was "delighted to be taking up this task".

He added: "This is an important time for a sector that is of huge importance to Scotland.

"Those who work in it are some of the most committed and dedicated I know, and I am very much looking forward to working with them."

Dr Alan Wells, policy and planning director for the Association Of Salmon Fishery Boards, welcomed the review.

He said: "During the parliamentary passage of the Aquaculture And Fisheries Act a number of questions relating to funding, salmon conservation, exploitation and management were identified as being key issues to be covered by the review, and we look forward to engaging with this process in a positive and constructive manner."

The review comes amid a dispute between anglers and salmon netters, with the Assoc­iation Of Salmon Fishery Boards calling for there to be no killing of spring salmon by rod or net until May 15 to conserve stocks.

Netters recently abandoned a 14-year-old voluntary delay to the start of their season, which they say directly benefitted the angling proprietors who did not compensate them.

Anti-fish farm campaigners used Mr Salmond's visit to the River Tay to call for a moratorium on any expansion of the industry.

Representatives from the campaign group Protect Wild Scotland lobbied Mr Salmond, with a letter - signed by more than 100 people - stating: "In view of the deteriorating state of salmon farming in Scotland, we urge Scottish ministers to curb expansion by instituting an immediate moratorium."

The organisation said increasing salmon production would "exacerbate the problems of sea louse infestation, infectious diseases, chemical pollution and escapes".

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