Scottish Government should abandon river categorisation scheme until it has reliable data
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The rivers of Scotland are a vital part of country life and provide a valuable source of tourist income. Key to this is the exceptional fishing opportunities. Angling clubs across the country provide opportunities for locals and tourists alike to learn and hone their skill amongst the internationally renowned salmon rivers. These same clubs are responsible for the environmental upkeep of the water and have played a pivotal part in maintaining the banks and spawning grounds for fish of all species.
In 2016 the Scottish government imposed a catch and return policy that required all fish returned to the river. Whilst to many this might seem ‘good’ the science on which this is based is flawed, the negative impacts on river maintenance overlooked and the impact on tourist revenue ignored. If the government is serious about conservation they should have conducted a proper scientific evaluation of all rivers, taken wider consultation with all those affected and would have made judgements based on scientific evidence.
Anglers would generally be happy to support measures to improve fish numbers if the scientific evidence was robust and there was an effective management plan in place. Unfortunately, the annual reassessment of Scotland’s salmon rivers is shambolic and is causing considerable damage to the viability of local angling clubs and restricting access to affordable angling. The process, conducted by Marine Scotland Science (MSS), is being carried out on the majority of Scotland’s rivers using flawed data extrapolated from a few fish counters and individual river catch returns. Differing habitat factors have not been considered and the resulting assessment is unsound and cannot be regarded as an objective evaluation of the health of an individual river’s salmon population.
Proposals for 2018 will see a number of rivers returning to Cat 3 which will inevitably affect the viability of some clubs which in turn will lead to a reduction of affordable angling and discourage wider participation in our sport, particularly amongst the younger generation.
We ask the Cabinet Secretary to freeze the categorisation process and unless there is incontrovertible evidence that the salmon population of an individual river is unsustainable, that all Cat 3 rivers should be classified as Cat 2 from 2018 until a full and definitive assessment has been undertaken by MSS. This pragmatic solution would allow clubs to remain solvent whilst giving MSS an opportunity to undertake a proper assessment of individual rivers.
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