Battle between drift and salmon fishing continues

Andrew Douglas Home

Andrew Douglas Home

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The number of salmon caught by drift and beach nets last year has prompted calls for both methods to end before the official closure date in six years’ time.

Tensions between salmon angling beat proprietors on the River Tweed catchment and the fishermen in the North East using the traditional drift net fishing methods continue.

Riparian owners are putting pressure on the UK Government to bring forward the complete removal of drift net licences and beach netting on the Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire coasts.

In 2012, UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon announced the closure of the drift net fishery in 2022 with the beach nets gradually phased out.

The autumn run of returning salmon is gaining momentum on the Tweed and Andrew Douglas Home, a former chairman of the River Tweed Commissioners, has described as ‘staggering’ the 15,989 salmon taken by the North-East nets in 2015.

“These 15,989 salmon (almost all killed) are caught by just 12 drift nets and 49 T&J nets (beach nets) at a time when the east coast Scottish rivers, which produce most of these fish, had another very poor year, if not quite as bad as 2014,” wrote Mr Douglas Home in his weekly Tweed Beats blog. “By contrast, Tweed rods caught 8,091 salmon in 2015 and killed just 1,651 of those caught.

“The drift nets are being phased out already, but it needs to be quicker, and the T & J nets, which also predate on mixed stocks, need to go too.”

However, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations continues to fight on behalf of drift net fishermen. In a letter to Fishing News, Ned Clark, chairman of its north-east committee, condemns a ‘mean-spirited’ campaign to extinguish the small-scale net fishery for salmon and trout.

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