Scottish Minister for the Environment Dr Aileen McLeod has proposed new measures for the conservation of salmon stocks that will come into force on 1 April 2016.
Broadly, these new measures are as follows:
- There can be no killing of salmon outwith estuary limits for a period of three years with strict controls on numbers that can be taken from rivers.
- Management will be on an annual basis by fishery district.
- There must be a conservation plan regardless of conservation status - although it will not be possible now to have river-by-river designation (this is planned for season 2017).
In supporting these measures, GWCT in Scotland recognises that whilst stocks continue to be depressed there can be no justification for the commercial fishing of wild salmon, and that the continuing operation of commercial fisheries acts both as a disincentive to anglers and to other countries to implement salmon conservation measures.
Concern has been expressed that the new Category 3 conservation status may impact severely on certain angling clubs and local tourism. However, Scotland currently averages 90 per cent catch and release for spring fish, and 80 per cent catch and release overall annually. Current voluntary conservation measures therefore will in most cases only require minor adjustment to comply. Rivers in England and Wales have had conservation plans for many years so their introduction in Scotland is a logical step.
Future limitations on killing must be balanced between anglers and commercial netting, and the new conservation driven approach and the consultation on the draft Wild Fisheries Bill should bring all those involved together to improve the conservation status of wild salmon.