The Scottish Gamekeepers Association Fishing Group warns that if action is not taken now to stop the decline of salmon stocks, jobs will be lost
River workers in Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to draft an urgent action and delivery plan to save the iconic salmon leading to fears that their jobs are next to be cut.
The SGA Fishing Group, which represents workers such as ghillies, boatmen and bailiffs, believes there is now genuine on-ground concern over employment due to declining fish numbers.
Government reports have highlighted that wild fisheries support 2800 jobs but it is acknowledged that losses of salaried positions would have a disproportionate local impact due to many of them being in remote locations.
Now the SGA Fishing Group feels that Government must convene a short term priority group, to establish a timeline of supported actions to safeguard the sector.
There are around 1000 active fisheries in Scotland but falling rod catches, competition and the lack of a central vision has seen assets and investment decline.
"It was heartening to see the recent Parliamentary debate on salmon. The BBC Panorama programme on salmon farming also highlighted an issue affecting our wild stocks in the west. However, there is no longer time for piecemeal actions or awareness raising," said Duncan Ferguson from the group.
"Many of the problems facing salmon are at sea but we need to look to home first."
"Years were spent on the abandoned reform of wild fisheries. During that time, investment halted and there is real fear now that what is left to strip is our employment and way of life.
"We have an amazing product. Famous rivers, skilled ghillies who promote their river and sell Scotland. There are few places you can fish a great river at the prices now being
We need to save our salmon now. A timeline of actions needs to be drawn up and followed through. Government needs to involve all the stakeholders but, crucially, they need to listen to the men and women who have worked these rivers for years."
"Amongst the priorities river workers feel need to be addressed quickly in our rivers are the impacts of predation, barriers to salmon passage, industrial water extraction and disease.
Today, from every 100 smolts heading to sea from Scottish rivers, only 5 adult salmon return. The numbers of predatory seals and dolphins is placing increasing pressure on survival as is the activity of Goosanders and Cormorants.
In the West of Scotland jobs have already been lost as previously prolific rivers have collapsed since the growth of coastal fish farms."
"As workers in a rural industry ourselves, we appreciate the jobs salmon farming creates. We want to see ways of co-existence being developed but we do not want it to mean loss of employment in our own secto," said Bob White, a ghillie on the Tay and SGA Fishing Group member. "The inability to get on top of sea lice infestations and the impacts this has on wild fish cannot now be scientifically ignored. Our members are also seeing impacts from mass escapes from farms which affects the genetic purity of wild fish, lessening their ability to survive."
"SEPA has been tasked to bring about change. They need to get on and do it.
"Government should speak to river workers and other stakeholders and assess what has to be done now to stabilise the situation before we lose any more of what remains. Long term improvements of habitat are very well, but tree-lined rivers are not going to stop salmon mortality tomorrow."