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Carry on netting

The Scottish government has incensed wild fisheries groups yet again this month, this time on the subject of mixed stock fisheries (MSFs) – net fisheries operating outside estuaries and exploiting salmon and sea trout stocks from more than one river.

The Association of Salmon Fisheries Boards (ASFB) and the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) were looking for a change in policy, stating it was time for Scottish Government to meet its international responsibilities and establish a robust management plan for coastal MSFs. However, the group designated to decide a clear and workable strategy comprised conflicting interests of netsmen and wild fish interests, which resulted, predictably, in stalemate.

Hugh Campbell Adamson, Chairman of ASFB, explained: “This group should have had a presiding judge taking evidence and then making binding recommendations. Instead of which, the Scottish Government simply threw together organisations with conflicting interests, which were never going to agree, and the result is, as expected, a fudge.”

The main thrusts of the wild fish argument are that 60% of rod-and-line fish are returned alive to the water, and is that for every netted (and killed) fish £2 is raised, while a rod and line caught salmon generates £70 towards management costs and conservation projects.

It was ultimately accepted that a consensus was not possible, despite guidelines from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and the EU, and gives examples of other countries’ policies, all of which accept the problems caused by coastal MSFs.

The deems that the present scientific data is insufficient, whilst ASFB and S&TA repeatedly called for the precautionary approach to be adopted, a principle signed up to by Scotland as a member of the EU delegation at NASCO.

Paul Knight agreed and added: “Scotland risks becoming the pariah of the international salmon world, by its attitude to managing wild fish stocks.”

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Salmon Trust has stated that wild salmon may disappear in 30 years if fish farms are not cleaned up and coastal netting is not curbed.

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