The representative body for all anglers, the Angling Trust, has called on Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to get a grip on policy concerning Atlantic salmon following a string of decisions in Scotland which all threaten to damage wild fish stocks. The Trust has called on its members to support a petition, which has already gained nearly 20,000 signatures, challenging the recent re-opening of a commercial net fishery targeting spring salmon, one of the most threatened stocks, and calling on the government to reverse the decision.
Salmon angling is a vital part of the Scottish economy; tens of thousands of anglers from all over the world come to fish on famous rivers such as the Tay, Dee, Spey, and Tweed, and they collectively spend hundreds of millions of pounds in the Scottish economy. All this activity depends on the health of wild fish stocks which are under serious threat from policies emerging from the Scottish government.
Tomorrow, 15th January, the First Minister is due to attend the traditional opening ceremony to celebrate the start of the salmon angling season on the River Tay and it is hoped that this will lead to better policy decisions that protect wild fisheries and the angling industry properly.
Alex Salmond has shown enthusiastic support for the salmon farming industry which has directly led to the decline in stocks of wild salmon and sea trout on the West Coast of Scotland, with the loss of hundreds of jobs previously supported, directly and indirectly, by recreational salmon angling. His government refused to accept a number of very sensible amendments to the Aquaculture & Fisheries Bill (now Act) which were proposed by environmental and fisheries organisations to try and reduce the impact of this highly polluting industry.
The Scottish Government also allowed the continuation and expansion of mixed-stock netting at sea in 2012, which catches fish indiscriminately, including fish returning to rivers where stocks cannot support exploitation. This decision has led to strong calls for a re-opening of commercial netting of mixed-stocks in Greenland, which has been reduced to subsistence catches for over a decade to protect vulnerable stocks. Greenlanders have been asking why they should hold back from catching fish – many of them from UK rivers – which go to Greenland to feed on small fish and shrimps, while mixed-stock nets continue to operate in the UK.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “The Scottish Government has shown a poor understanding of the economic importance of angling to rural communities. Tens of thousands of anglers from Britain and the rest of the world spend a small fortune travelling to fish Scottish rivers and they make a complex contribution to the local economy, supporting hotels, pubs, shops and the fishing tackle industry. Many of the decisions that have been taken in recent years have threatened wild fish, which have been spawning in Scottish rivers for millennia, for the sake of a short-term profit from aquaculture and commercial mixed-stock netting. If Greenland starts netting salmon again as a result of the Scottish Government’s failure to act to protect wild fish, the future of salmon fishing in the UK will be put at risk. We urge all anglers to write to sign this petition to protect spring salmon from commercial exploitation.”