New proposals aim to protect salmon stocks

New measures to protect salmon stocks, currently among the lowest on record, have been welcomed by the River Tweed Commission (RTC).

Sunday, 11th February 2018, 07:28 am
Gardo netting station, using traditional fishing methods on the Tweed estuary

The Environment Agency is proposing to stop the taking of salmon from the majority of net fisheries by 2019.

For rivers with the lowest salmon stocks, a mandatory requirement to return all salmon caught is also proposed, with voluntary catch and release targets for all other rivers.

An RTC spokeman said: “The RTC is very pleased that the Environment Agency is following international best practice and calling a halt to mixed stock fisheries. Recent genetic testing work on salmon has shown that 70 per cent of fish caught by the North East drift net fishery are of Scottish origin, demonstrating just how mixed that fishery is, and how many fish have been prevented from reaching their home rivers.

“When the autumn was the main run on the Tweed for salmon, the drift net season was too early to exploit it. However, now that the main salmon run is changing and becoming earlier and it is inside the drift net season, the chances of impacts on the fish stocks would increase in the future.

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“June is now starting to become a much more productive month for the drift nets, and so the Environment Agency’s halt to the nets should mean that more fish reach the Tweed.”

Kevin Austin, Environment Agency’s Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment said: “We are not suggesting these proposals lightly and have consulted widely with those affected. However we need to take action now in order to give as many of the salmon that make it back to our rivers as possible a chance to spawn successfully.

“The reasons for the decline of salmon are complex, and there is no single solution; reducing the catch of salmon can only partly contribute to the recovery of salmon stocks. We continue to work closely with water companies and other partners to improve water quality and low flows on salmon rivers. We are also investing and working in partnership with companies and stakeholders to improve fish passage on schemes up and down the country.

“It is only through continuing to take concerted action, and through the co-operation of others, that we will successfully protect this iconic species for future generations.”

Reducing the taking of salmon by rods and nets is only one part of the Environment Agency’s larger programme called the ‘Salmon Five Point Approach’. The Salmon Five Point Approach has been jointly developed and committed to by a wide range of partners which include Government, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Angling Trust, River Trusts, Wild Trout Trust and the Institute of Fisheries Management.