The Scottish Gamekeepers Association

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association Forms a New Fishing Campaign Group to Pressurise Government

Tweed bailiffs

I have found 2014 to be the most disappointing year I have ever experienced as a salmon angler, I don’t think I am alone in this observation.  Oddly enough my fishing has been limited this season and I am thankful. Walking the banks of the Don at Alford I can count on 2 fingers the number of fish I have seen. What the heck has happened since 2012 when I was fishing the Whiteadder and catches were exceptional.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has formed a new fishing campaign group to lobby government about action on the declining salmon population, stocks of which are not only of great significance to thousands of anglers but a massive contributor to the Scottish economy, bringing in £113m per annum.

SGA is now asking the Government to introduce a quota system for 2015 as anticipated returns for 2014 are expected to be poor, indicating real problems at sea that are affecting fish stocks..

Two years of poor catches have also been associated with low water holding fish back at sea where they have been vulnerable to rampant netting and predation. The SGA point out that the Marine Conservation Society suggests that wild salmon should no longer be eaten. I and the majority of anglers will be hacked off if this policy prevented us from taking a fish for the table. For years anglers have shown great restraint returning the majority of fish caught,. 92% of spring salmon have been returned but SGA observe correctly that netsmen show no such restraint.

SGA suggest that “One of the actions the Scottish Government should take, in time for next season, would be to look at quotas through a tagging system”

“By applying quotas that everyone is bound by, the Scottish Government can ensure that conservation measures are targeted and only what is harvestable it taken”

Off course one contribution would be for the Scottish Government to close it’s own netting operations. Good luck to the gamekeepers who are asking one of the poachers to help

What is happening at sea, off shore and inshore, what is happening in areas of intense fish farming and with predation are all issues the government can deal with if there was a will. It is questionable that government has that will as political correctness finds our sport anathema, some people perceive that we kill for fun. I can accept this misperception in the case of vegetarians, but when did 5.7% of the population have the majority say over the rest of us?

Farming millions of salmon in cages, destroying native sea trout and salmon populations at sea and in our fresh water lochs and polluting the environment with tonnes of faeces and buckets of drugs is good business. Sea lice have no impact on fish stocks no, no, no , no we have experts paid for by the industry who can prove this! Dredging up thousands upon thousands of tonnes of krill  and whitebait to makes feed for salmon farms has no impact on sea fish populations no, no, no we have experts paid by the industry to who can prove this is sustainable.

 More foxes sent to look after the chickens.

Controversially the SGA are proposing a re-stocking programme which will no doubt be attacked by the conservation lobby who believe that nature will sort things out without diminishing the native stock gene pools. Stocking used to be common in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was effective and seemed to have no deleterious effect on stocks. Maybe the prospect of restocking and breeding with escapee farm salmon could be the twist in the tale that would affect the gene pools. Government could do more to make fish farms manage their losses to improve .the prospects for native stocks.

New SGA group member Duncan Ferguson says "Fishing is such an important part of our rural economy. We need help to tackle the problems and also to encourage the future generations who will be the guardians of our rivers”

SGA are proposing a tag system for anglers and netsmen which would be attached to a sustainable estimate of harvestable stocks. In fact if not eating the occasional wild salmon I catch is the price I have to pay for future generations, I guess I would go along with it. Heck I still have my 4 tags for the Don at Alford and don’t expect to use them this year.

My fear is this, government will get it all wrong, conservationist, anti blood sports and political correctness pressure groups will be pandered to and once compulsory catch and release is in place there will be no going back as long as you can get your fish in the supermarket – farm fresh.