Government u-turn delights anglers

The Scottish Government has reversed its decision to extend the coastal salmon netting season in the South Esk District.

In August 2012, Scottish Ministers controversially granted Usan Salmon Fisheries (Scotland’s largest salmon netting company) a three-year licence to kill salmon at its coastal netting stations south of Montrose for two weeks in September – after the end of the statutory netting season on August 31.

The decision was met with widespread condemnation from anglers and from conservation bodies.

This licence has now been revoked.

At the time The Esk District Salmon Fishery Board (EDSFB), which is the statutory body responsible for the protection, preservation and development of salmon and sea trout fisheries within the Esk district, including the associated coastline and the North Esk, South Esk, Bervie and Lunan river, expressed its outright opposition to the decision.

In August, Hugh Campbell Adamson, who was chairman of the EDSFB at the time, said: “We are perturbed by the Government’s unilateral intention to allow netting in September.

“It makes no sense at all from a conservation perspective to permit any additional pressure on salmon stocks”.

The approach by the Scottish Government was described by Mr Campbell Adamson at the time as being “woefully inconsistence.”

He added: “It regularly exhorts Fishery Boards and anglers to reduce exploitation through catch and release.

“This advice is being heeded on the River South Esk where in 2011 anglers caught just 672 salmon, of which well over half were safely released back into the water.

“In contrast Usan’s nets in the South Esk district killed 6,500 salmon last year.

“It beggars belief that the netting season is now being lengthened.”

The Esk District Salmon Fisheries Board (EDSFB) sought a judicial review of the Government’s decision to grant the licence, which was due to be heard in February, however the reversal of the decision means that this is no longer necessary.

Hugh Campbell Adamson, ex-chairman of the EDSFB (chairman when the judicial was sought), said: “We are delighted that the Government has revoked the licence after one year only. We always felt that the decision was flawed on both conservation and on legal grounds, and therefore warmly welcome this decision.

“I would especially like to thank the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) and the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board for their invaluable support.”

Mr Campbell Adamson added: “Scottish Government’s capitulation, together with its undertaking to pay the Board’s costs, vindicates entirely the EDSFB’s decision to go for judicial review.

“I hope that we can all now move on and never again allow politics and prejudice to jeopardise wild salmon conservation.

“The latter must take priority – whether it is in the context of salmon netting on the east coast or the unsustainable increase in salmon farming on the west coast.”

Tom Sampson, chairman of the Esks Rivers and Fisheries Trust, commented: “The Government’s reversal of its decision is indeed welcome.

“No increased exploitation of salmon, in the context of today’s limited marine survival levels, can be justified.”

Bill Balfour, who is the Brechin Advertiser’s ‘Tight Lines’ correspondent, said: “This is a great move forward for all who have been fighting for the future of the South Esk and I congratulate the retiring Esk Board who have fought so hard for the closure of all mixed stock coastal fisheries, in particular the fishery at Usan and Lunan Bay. I have great hopes for the future.”