Scottish anglers could be required to hold a rod licence in the future, and the countrywide ban on fishing on Sunday could also be dropped, if some of the topics aired at Scotland's first Wild Fisheries Review roundtable discussions are borne out.
Chairman Andrew Thin (pictured above), guided the first of his 18 countrywide invitational meetings at Pitlochry with angling stakeholders as he strives to meet his remit of "considering from first principles the challenges and opportunities facing Scotland's wild fisheries, the management system and funding required to meet those challenges and deliver those opportunities."
Scotland is unusual in that it has never had a rod licence. England and Wales' rod licence currently supports fisheries work by the Environment Agency, and Ireland introduced a state licence in 2000, which is required by all who fish for salmon or sea trout, and is issued in tandem with a carcass-tagging and logbook system to record catch-data. A Scottish rod licence, it was argued, would not only raise revenue for further fisheries development, but also give Scotland a handle on how many anglers actually participate in recreational fishing, and who they are.
The topic of carcass-tagging of all retained wild fish (both netted and recreational) also arose, and Mr Thin was keen to consider the question of catch-quotas (including netting) for individual rivers, and how these could be decided on a season-to-season basis.
In a hectic meeting, the idea of centralised fishery management was discussed, along with its obvious advantages of cost-saving to individual River Boards of administration and employment, but also of its lack of localised, river-by-river application.
The question of Protection Orders also cropped up. General opinion within this Pitlochry group pointed out that local involvement and management of this system meant the Order worked and was beneficial, but the system still carried flaws in that some riparian owners could hide behind the blanket protection of the Order yet failed to meet the access criteria. It was pointed out to Mr Thin that although the Protection Order allowed access to trout and grayling fishers throughout most parts of the Tay system, many other large Scottish rivers did not have an Order and thus these anglers were denied access to the quality trout fishing these rivers undeniably support. It was suggested a similar system for access could be implemented on these rivers. It was also highlighted that this would not not only make fishing accessible, but it would also offer a doorstep opportunity for local youngsters to fish, another of Mr Thin's Review objectives.
The question of Sunday fishing was also up for discussion. Mr Thin implied that if the law were to be changed, then it would still be an option for riparian owners to decide whether they wished to allow fishing on a Sunday or not.
What was made clear was that the issue of salmon farming did not enter Mr Thin's remit of his Wild Fisheries Review. It was explained that this review was based on reviewing the current management policies of Scotland's wild fisheries.
Mr Thin will continue to explore angling stakeholders' thoughts on his countrywide tour, said he would be inviting written submissions for thoughts on any part of current Scottish fishery management for his "collaborative" review in mid to late April. Watch this space.
The rest of the dates and locations are:
April 23 Deeside
April 28 Dumfries/Galloway
April 29 Perth
May 5 Caithness
May 12 Borders
May 15 Edinburgh
May 20 Strathclyde
June 2 Loch Lomond
June 3 Wester Ross
June 4 Wester Isles
June 9 Orkney
June 24 Montrose
June 25 Moray Coast
June 30 Inverness
July 1 East Sutherland
July 2 Argyll
July 3 Lochaber
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