Net is closing in on Gardo salmon fishery

The future of traditional net salmon fishing on the River Tweed at Berwick has received a major blow.

Monday, 18th March 2019, 07:36 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 13:37 pm
Gardo netting station, using traditional fishing methods on the Tweed estuary

Scottish Ministers have backed a proposed extension of the annual close season to protect spring salmon stocks on the river.

At the moment it is not permitted to fish for salmon between September 15 and March 31.

Marine Scotland, a department of the Scottish Government, has now backed an application by the River Tweed Commissioners (RTC) to extend the close season to May 31, despite opposition from Berwick Harbour Commission and tenants of the Gardo net fishery.

Marine Scotland’s Keith Main, in a letter to the RTC, states: ‘Ministers have concluded that there is, on balance, a strong case to amend the annual close time in order to protect and improve stocks of spring salmon on the River Tweed.

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‘There is evidence that spring stocks on the Tweed are at historically low levels and... not allowing killing of salmon until later in the year would be a suitable precautionary measure.

‘Ministers are conscious that the decision to change the annual close season time will have an adverse effect on the net and coble fishery at Tweedmouth. On balance, the need to apply a precautionary approach to the long-term protection of salmon stocks outweighs these concerns.’

It is intended to bring the change into effect in time for the 2020 season.

Ministers also indicated an exemption for rod fishing by ‘spinning’ will not be given beyond this year.

Coun Georgina Hill, member for Berwick East on Northumberland County Council, said: “It is, of course, a really disappointing proposal from the Scottish Government from the point of view of net fishing in Berwick and one that needs to be challenged.

“They have, however, at least not accepted the RTC’s dubious and illogical case that it is only net-fishing which should be targeted.”

An RTC spokesman said: “The voluntary catch and release measures for spring salmon have been in place for 20 years and result in 98% of fish being returned. Despite this great effort, we are seeing no increase in numbers of spring salmon returning to the river, and so the RTC is pleased that Scottish Ministers have agreed its application.

“However, further discussion with Marine Scotland is necessary as the RTC cannot agree the proposed additional measures, which would restrict the anglers’ choice of fishing method by not allowing spinning before June 1.”