The camera is located on the Cock and Magpie by kind permission of proprietors. Bewdley Bridge is a three-span masonry arch bridge over the River Severn. There has been a bridge at this location since 1447, each being destroyed and replaced. Severe flooding in 1795 destroyed the previous bridge. That bridge comprised five pointed stone arches. One of the arches had also been damaged by the Royalists in 1644 and rebuilt in timber. The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about 220 miles It rises at an altitude of 2,001 ft on Plynlimon near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales. It then flows through Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, with the county towns of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Gloucester on its banks. With an average discharge of 107 mł/s at Apperley, Gloucestershire, the Severn is the greatest river in terms of water flow in England and Wales.
1 Severnside North, Bewdley, Worcestershire , DY12 2EE
The Cock and Magpie has been a Bewdley public house since the 18th Century. Situated on the old working quay next tto the River Severn, we are a Banks's pub with a reputation for a friendly atmosphere, attentive staff and great entertainment.
Canal & River Trust. The Dock Office, Commercial Road, Commercial Road, GL1 2EB
The Canal & River Trustâs historic canals and rivers provide a local haven for people and nature. Weâre the new charity entrusted with the care of 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales.
added: 7th May 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
My friend, Fred Woodward, wrote 'The Scottish Pearl in Peril in its World Context' which was published by Diehard in 1993 (ISBN 0 946230 27 7) and, although currently out of print, is in my view the best...
introduction to the life of this fascinating mollusc. He asked me to write the Foreword to his book, which I quote below because the context of the Freshwater Mussel FWM (Margaritifera Margaritifera) is perhaps more relevant today than it was then, largely because of increasing public awareness of its ecological importance.
Fred Woodward worked at the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow in a team of distinguished natural historians and biologists. In that capacity he became a member of the European Invertebrates Survey and of the Bern Invertebrates Specialist Group, among other influential roles, including fellowship of the Linnaean Society. I remember Fred talking about the importance of the freshwater mussel and its relationship with juvenile salmonids, especially Atlantic salmon parr. At that time he was drafting the guidelines for the EU's Habitat Directorate, which ultimately led to EU legislation to protect the FWM.
Why are freshwater mussels (FWM) important?
My own interest in Margaritifera Margaritifera stemmed from living on the banks of the River South Esk in Angus, which was famous for the quality of its FWM pearls. In the 1980s it was still legal to collect pearls by opening up the shell of the living mollusc, invariably killing it in the process, and occasionally finding a pearl inside. South Esk FWM pearls were highly sought after, so much so that the late Queen Mother was given a necklace of a selection of the purest irridescent and graded pearls.
Quite often we would find heaps of opened shells beside the river, with dead mussels rotting and stinking in the summer warmth. It was obvious to me, even before I met Fred Woodward, that the plundering of the river's stocks of FWM could not continue if they were not going to become extinct.
Hence, when Fred asked me to write the foreword for his book, this is what I wrote:
"The freshwater mussel is a biological indicator of the health of our rivers. It is also the prized quarry of pearl fishermen, and in Scotland there is a common right to fish for them. There are few such privileges given to the ordinary person, above the rights of the riparian owner, and it is significant, as public access to Scotland's wilderness areas is now a major political issue, that we now know that this practice is no longer sustainable, if the Scottish pearl mussel is to survive.
Traditionally the pearl fisher killed every mussel in the search for the elusive and valuable pearl. It is this, in the context of the longevity and slow growth of Margaritifera Margaritifera, which made it obvious to Scotland's small group of professional pearl fishers that they needed to devise a method which did not involve killing the mussel. This they succeeded in doing by developing tongs which prise open the shell-halves sufficiently to allow inspection and removal of a pearl from the mussel's mantle without harming it. Unfortunately, it was impossible to communicate this method to the much larger number of amateur pearl fishermen, and it therefore became necessary to introduce legislation in 1989 to protect the animal by making it illegal to kill them, or interfere with them in any way.
Fred Woodward is the champion of Margaritifera Margaritifera. His interest in its natural history, its exploitation by man since pre-Roman times, its global context and the politics needed to ensure its survival, are the subject of this book. His main concern is for the mollusc's wellbeing, and yet he manages to introduce an elegaic sympathy for the Scottish group of professional pearl fishers, Bill Abernethy, Peter Goodwin and the McCormack family. It is well worth reading Peter Goodwin's book, 'The River and the Road - Journal of a Freshwater Pearl-Fisher' (Hale 1985 ISBN 0 7090 2341 3) which describes the lives of pearl fishers, an activity which sadly but understandably no longer exists.
The 1992 Rio conference on the global environment highlighted the issue of biodiversity, and it is therefore important that each threatened species has its champions. Fred Woodward's commitment is much more important than championing the cause of a single species however, because his holistic approach has much in common with the Scottish biologist and philosopher, Patrick Geddes, in the way he invites us to think globally and act locally. Margaritifera Margaritifera is more than yet another threatened species or biological indicator; ultimately it is a measure of our commitment to sustaining our environment."
Since 1993 the EU has introduced Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect fragile species such as the FWM. Because of the mollusc's relationship with juvenile salmon, which are hosts to the FWM's larval parasite (Glochidia), it is the relationship between the two species which has become the target of EU conservation efforts. In salmon rivers where the freshwater mussel still exists, SAC status is predicated on the wellbeing of both species in that particular ecosystem - the freshwater catchment.
TA on 6/5/2013
added: 25th Mar 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
Tony Andrews explains the thinking behind the new AST strategy:
Following the ground breaking SALSEA project, AST has refreshed its strategy to encompass the whole lives of Atlantic salmon...
and sea trout in all their habitats, at sea and in fresh water.
The purpose of ASTâs new âThree Pillarsâ strategy is to break down the formidable task of understanding and managing diverse Atlantic salmon stocks with life spans of 3-8 years and migrations over many thousands of miles. The strategy addresses survival issues in fresh water, where human intervention is at its most effective, in inshore waters where manmade obstructions to migrations are increasing, and in the deep ocean where our role becomes one of monitoring, rather than control.
The link between the three âpillarsâ is of course the salmon. The extent of the salmonâs range is best grasped by dealing with the three habitats separately. This makes it easier for example to recognise that what we learn from the ocean impinges directly on what we can do in fresh water, or that improvements to safe passage of smolts through coastal waters have a direct impact on numbers of returning adult fish. The âThree Pillarsâ concept therefore focuses on the whole life cycle of Atlantic salmonâŚ.
PILLAR ONE: The Ocean
Salmon are Ocean fish and members of the pelagic family of sea fishes. They use fresh water to lay their eggs, and the rivers of the north Atlantic basin are where young salmon grow to become big enough to go to sea. The Ocean provides Atlantic salmon with migration routes and feeding areas, where they grow over one, two, three and sometimes four sea winters, before returning to their rivers of birth to start the cycle again. We know from ICES reports that the abundance of Atlantic salmon continues to decline and that the condition of returning adults from parts of the northeast Atlantic Ocean gives rise for concern over their ability to reproduce successfully. The ASTâs work is focussed on understanding the causes of the decline in abundance and condition and, wherever possible, finding ways of mitigating this trend.
Major changes are taking place in climate, ocean currents, temperatures and weather systems. Salmon migrations are probably being interrupted by trawlers in search of other species of pelagic fish. It is quite likely that many post-smolts may be inadvertently killed without anyone knowing. At present we do not know if this is happening and, if it is, which stocks are being damaged, nor how serious that damage may be.
AST ACTIONS. We will find out the extent of inadvertent by-catches of post-smolts, and take action to prevent it continuing. We are in discussion with European pelagic fishing fleet representatives and the European Commission about the possibility of establishing âsafe corridorsâ for post-smolts at the time of annual migrations.
Atlantic salmon from unknown stocks are being killed as part of a âsubsistence harvestâ by commercial netting in the west Greenland fjords. Archives of scales from salmon caught in the Faroes and Greenland coastal waters and current genetic mapping show that they come from eggs laid by European multi-sea-winter salmon.
AST ACTIONS. Continuing genetic mapping and sampling tell us which fish from which regions/rivers are using which part of the Faroes area and Greenland coast. We will be able to negotiate through NASCO a reduction in killing salmon in specific fjords, where our fish are shown to feed. This issue will become acute if either Greenland or the Faroes were to return to a full commercial harvest at the end of the current agreement.
Working with ASF in Canada & USA we will develop new methods of tracking salmon at sea. New technologies, such as static and floating arrays, pop-up tags, radio and pit tags for locating and transmitting data enable real time sampling to take place at sea and in coastal waters. We will disseminate our findings in an international symposium in 2014/15.
Availability of the salmonâs prey species varies throughout the North Atlantic. West of Iceland there is generally a greater abundance of prey than in the NE Atlantic. We need to understand better where salmon are doing well at sea, and where they struggle to survive. That knowledge will enable fishery managers to focus on conserving fragile populations within a riverâs stock.
AST ACTIONS. We will persuade governments to include salmon (and sea trout) in their pelagic sea fish surveys. At present salmon are often treated as freshwater fish. If, as a result of continuous monitoring, we have a better understanding of the abundance of prey species in particular areas of the ocean, we will be in a position to predict future return migrations, thus giving the fishery manager âon the riverbankâ timely information to set levels of exploitation for future seasons.
PILLAR TWO: The Coastal Zone
Inshore waters are where human influence and potential disruption to migrations of salmon and sea trout are at their greatest. Yet we know little about migration routes, and even less about what happens to salmon and sea trout smolts (and migrating kelts) when they are most vulnerable in the days after they have left fresh water.
Shallow coastal waters are subject to the vagaries of climate change and extreme weather in ways that the deep ocean is not. Concentrations of predators are attracted to estuaries as smolt migrations exit their rivers. Our ignorance of what happens to these little fish, as they swim out of fresh into salt water, is compounded by the effects of new engineering technologies, including the oil industry, as well as ârenewablesâ, such as offshore wind farms, tidal barrages, sea bed turbines, wave generators, with their associated undersea transmission cables. Effluents from farms, domestic sewage solvents, and industrial pollution are concentrated along our coasts, especially in estuaries. Sea trout tend to stay close inshore and are therefore exposed more than salmon.
Aquaculture and mixed stocks coastal nets.
In sea lochs, off islands and in coastal waters of the Scottish west coast salmon aquaculture has, increasingly over the last forty years, had a detrimental impact on stocks of wild salmon and sea trout, particularly on post-smolts, but also in fresh water* (see below).
Salmon and sea trout returning to the coasts of Scotland and England continue to be killed indiscriminately by the few remaining mixed stocks fisheries.
â˘Migration routes of outgoing smolts. Identify coastal âchoke pointsâ by using tele-tracking methods developed by our partner in USA and Canada, the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Produce a comprehensive list of threats to survival & prioritise preventive or remedial actions in light of what is achievable.
â˘Understand levels and causes of smolt mortality Obtain support from partners, public and private sector.
Outcome Identification of routes & choke points will provide baseline data for planners when assessing coastal projects and ensure that sensitive sites are protected, and migratory salmonids given safe passage.
â˘Impacts of âaccidental by-catchâ (See Pillar ONE above)
Outcome: Increased post-smolt survival from reductions in by-catch leads to increased numbers of returning adults.
â˘Impacts of renewables. Research possible impacts of different forms of energy generation and transmission. Assess risks and explore possible remedies. Obtain support and provide data for planners and lobbyists. Solutions strategy must include improvements in EIAs. Monitoring new developments.
Outcome: Ensuring that post-smolt migrations of Atlantic salmon make safe passage to the Ocean.
â˘Survival of post-smolts. Working with GWCT, ASF and others, obtain data on survival and causes of attrition of post-smolts in estuarial and adjacent coastal zones. Analyse causes and possible solutions. Prioritise and seek support for implementing remedies.
Increased understanding of behaviour of post-smolts and juvenile sea trout in inshore areas
This leads to management actions to provide safe passage to enable post-smolts to migrate to marine feeding areas.
â˘Predation. Assess proportional risks from predation (human, piscine, avian & mammalian) including potential damage from invasive species (e.g. gilt-head bream & bass) & recommend possible remedies (e.g. where RSPB & others do not pose insuperable vetoes).
Reduction in some predation allows more smolts to reach the sea.
Reduction in human exploitation allows more spawners into rivers & increases natural recruitment.
â˘Salmon farming. Working with RAFTS and government scientists continue to build data on risks to indigenous salmon & sea trout stocks on a site-by-site basis. Build on existing AST sea lice policy to persuade the industry and government regulators to develop systems of management to protect post-smolts. Continue to encourage development of new salmon farming technologies, especially in different forms of close containment.
A sustainable salmon farming industry will cause minimal damage to wild fish stocks.
In the meantime, while current open-cage practices continue, promote risk analysis (e.g. MIAP) to prioritise the most productive areas, achieve realistic constraints and remedial actions to prevent damage to threatened stocks in designated high risk locations.
â˘Mixed stocks exploitation. Use existing data (e.g. MS 2012 data from South Esk Tracking Project, decision of Westminster Government to phase out Mixed stocks fisheries, and Scottish MSFWG report of 2010)to support NGO lobby groups to put pressure on government to phase out mixed stocks coastal netting, as is now happening in England. In international fora continue to highlight Scotland's isolated position in the community of north SAtlantic salmon countries (NASCO)
Obtain new data through genetic analysis, tagging, radio tracking and mapping to show effects of mixed stocks coastal netting on salmon and sea trout survivors, and the effect this form of exploitation has on rivers with unknown or fragile populations, especially of early-running salmon.
Use these data to persuade governments, and, if required, EC directorates, to achieve regimes of sustainable exploitation.
The end of indiscriminate killing of returning adult fish in coastal nets (the 5% survivors) will enable fishery managers to understand stocks and to manage them effectively.
Survival of genetically diverse populations will ensure survival of distinct catchment biodiversity.
PILLAR THREE - The Freshwater Environment
AST recognises that catchment-based monitoring, measuring, enhancement, restoration and maintenance work done by fisheries trusts is the key to natural smolt production. The 2008 TWG Restoration Guide (See AST weebsite www.atlaticsalmontrust.org)
There is also an important role for AST in providing an overview and filling the gaps in knowledge. By raising awareness of issues such as flows, the role of small streams, the efficacy of stocking, the welfare of sea trout populations and stock assessment, AST provides support to biologists and managers on riverbanks. With the perspective of the whole lives of salmon and sea trout AST is well placed to support our partners in their work, to initiate new research and communicate results to decision makers and fisheries managers.
ASTâs approach to supporting the fresh water sector is to use its well- tested process of
a) Bringing stakeholders together for conferences on an identified key issue (e.g. stocking, flows)
b) Workshops to develop actions identified by the conference
c) Developing priorities for development & funding
d) Designing projects, assembling human and financial resources
e) Leading or participating in project implementation, or acting as advocate where needed
e) Communicating results to stakeholders for action
f) Monitoring, evaluating and communicating outcomes.
Dissemination of data from ocean monitoring should eventually lead to reliable ways of predicting abundance and quality of future migrations to help managers monitor and adjust exploitation in context of conservation levels (CLs).
Outcome. A Stock assessment toolkit, which takes account of the whole life of salmon and sea trout, should enable managers to take decisions in real time so that exploitation levels can be adjusted in advance of or within a season, as opposed to a year later, as happens now.
Seatrout: mobilising stakeholders.
Building on the Cardiff ST conference of 2004, ASTâs Bangor workshop of 2010 and the results of the 3 Interreg North Sea, AARC and Celtic projects, and working with the Wild Trout Trust, continue to promote research and good practice leading to better understanding, anadromy, genetics, and the range of habitats, of the lives of sea trout.
â˘Practical guidelines for fishery managers on maintaining sea trout diversity and enhancing quality and abundance.
â˘A national sea trout archive (literature, scales, tissue samples) on-line & in partnership with the wild salmonids sector.
â˘Co-ordinating outcomes of the various sea trout projects in Ireland and the UK leading to a sea trout conference in 2014.
â˘Build on 2012 Carlingord Small Streams Workshop to improve understanding of the role of small stream in sea trout recruitment.
Freshwater habitat for wild salmon and trout. Following the Flows Conference of 2009, the Pitlochry workshop of 2010 and the Carlingford small streams workshop of 2012, work towards a better understanding of the importance of flows for recruitment and survival in the context of river catchments.
Outcome. Improved habitat management (= more naturally generated smolts) throughout river catchments, employing skills of stakeholders, including volunteers.
Stocking. November 2013 Stocking conference (IBIS and AST) in Glsasgow (See Home Page) will reopen the debate on the controversial issue of using stocking in fishery management. All sides of the debate will be represented with a view to developing a consensus on when stocking can be effective in restoring a fishery.
AST seeks clarity on when the stocking option should be used.This is important as increasing numbers of managers want to understand the risks; in effect we aim to provide a SWOT analysis on stocking.
In the context of experience of fishery managers, and data from geneticists and biologists on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Baltic Sea, we would like an agreed position on when and when not to stock.
This summary was written in February 2013 and will be updated. I believe it has a value in showing how the collective thought processes of the AST team have developed over the last two years.
Atlantic Salmon Trust
5 February 2013
added: 24th Mar 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
Beaver introductions: some personal thoughts.
[i]Tony Andrews, who is chairman of the South Esk Catchment Management Partnership and Chief Executive of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, welcomes the...
reintroduction of the European beaver, while asking that rural managers be permitted to control their populations when they threaten ecosystems or the rural economy. He argues that a balanced approach to management, guided by science, is the key to good decision making.[/i]
The European beaver is a large rodent herbivor whose home is the aquatic environment. It inhabits lakes, or makes beaver ponds in slow moving streams by building dams and flooding upstream areas.
The beaver is an attractive rodent, about the size of a cocker spaniel. They are herbivorous, love water and usually build their lodges beside rivers or lochs, using trees which they have felled as building materials. Sometimes they build dams across slower flowing sections of small and medium size burns. Beaver activities can change ecosystems, in some instances damagingly so. Personally, I like beavers, but only in the right context. For example thinking of context, hedgehogs, loveable as they are, really shouldnât be present on islands where rare ground-nesting birds breed.
Beavers in mediaeval times were valuable for their skins, as food, and as a source of medicines. Much of Scotland was then natural forest or marshland. Today Scotland has less natural woodland than nearly every other country in Europe. Although the value of the animal is now different, beaver meat is a particularly healthy alternative to the processed offal of contentious origin we buy in our supermarkets. The food option is a real one if beaver populations expand sufficiently to require culling, as happens with red and roe deer.
Terrestrial ecologists argue that reintroducing beavers is good for biodiversity and natural regeneration of river catchments. But our countryside has changed from 400 years ago. Natural riparian woodlands are a rarity. Agriculture depends on well drained land. In our rivers migratory fish are returning from the ocean in massively reduced numbers, and they need every square metre of breeding space available. I acknowledge the ecological value of certain sites to reintroduce this long-extinct species, but I believe we need to have a clear exit plan if beavers are to take a place again as part of our natural fauna.
Beavers are secretive, twilight, animals, which suggests that not many people will see them. Charming though they undoubtedly are, they can be very destructive if populations expand into areas of the countryside where their tree-felling and dam building activities affect the local economy or fragile ecosystems.
Salmon stocks have declined by over 60% in the last forty years, and sea trout numbers are also under pressure. Threats to stocks will become serious if beavers damage spawning and nursery areas. Beaver âengineeringâ activities in sub-catchments will obstruct access to spawning locations. They will also inhibit regeneration of the freshwater mussel, which depends on salmon and sea trout to re-populate the upper catchment.
Felling riparian trees on the banks of shallow tributaries will open up shaded areas to the heat of the summer sun. As summers get hotter and droughts more severe, water temperatures are likely to become lethal to young salmon, as has already happened in some rivers in France and Southern England. Riparian woodlands provide protection against high water temperatures.
Large numbers of migrating salmon and sea trout smolts will concentrate in the pools above beaver dams making them very vulnerable to predation. A riverâs ability to regenerate its salmon and sea trout stocks is entirely dependent on the numbers of smolts that reach the sea. Beaver activities will reduce that output, which in the case of the South Esk could spell disaster for both species, not to mention the threatened freshwater mussel.
âAccidentallyâ introduced beaver families have already colonised the Dean Water, a tributary of the Isla in the Tay catchment. It is a short walk from the upper Dean to the Lemno Burn in the South Esk catchment. As a river already struggling to conserve its salmon and sea trout stocks, it is important that beavers are controlled and not permitted to damage a catchment whose biodiversity is already fragile.
Tony Andrews 23/3/13
added: 15th Mar 2013
posted by: Steve Williams
Well that's that!
Another coarse fishing season comes to an end.
Its been a difficult season for most, with challenging conditions. If we haven't been in full flood, its been freezing cold, with the...
river low and clear.
Not conducive to good fishing for any species really.
Let hope next season proves to be a little more calmer.
Highlights for me personally was a PB River Pike of 23lb 13oz, taken aboard my boat only a few weeks ago, and some very good Perch fishing on my local middle river Severn during the late summer and early autumn, in between the floods.
I think its been the season of the Perch this past 9 months.
Some superb specimens have been caught from a number of venues up and down the country, but the middle Severn is a venue to watch out for over the coming seasons as more and more people realise there is more the the Middle Severn than just Barbel.
The Chub fishing is also improving, with some big old Chub coming out to 6lb+ already.
Again, I think anglers will slowly start to target these fish once they realise the quality of the specimens on their doorstep.
Well that's the end of my weekly reports for now.
I will drop back in and update on anything I feel may interest the readers, as I hear about it, but for me, I'll be spending the next few months after Eels, Tench, Perch and Bream from a few local and not so local venues.
Tight lines for the coming months and here's to looking forward to the 'glorious 16th'...
added: 8th Mar 2013
posted by: Steve Williams
With less than a week to go, this weekend is the last chance many will have for getting out onto the rivers.
Conditions look reasonable.
The temp is holding at around the mid 6's, which means there is...
a chance that most species will feed.
The level on the Severn is low and clear, with that slight 'green' tinge of colour typical of winter.
Very good Chub conditions, which has been proved by some great fish coming out all along the upper and middle sections of the river.
Mash bread and bread flake seem to be the killer method.
The Roach haven't really shown again this winter, but the Dace fishing has been good.
It's difficult conditions for Barbel.
Not really warm enough to get them feeding hard, but still a chance of a fish or two.
Small baits like maggots and casters, or small pellets and hemp will be the way to go.
Unfortunately the weather is going to turn again this weekend, with another cold snap coming in.
Temps down below freezing by mid week, which will probably mean a quiet end to the river season for most.
I managed to get my boat out last Saturday for the last trip this season.
It was a quiet days fishing, only brightened by me connecting with the one and only take of the day, which turned out to be a very welcome 23lb 13oz Pike.
Strange that we didn't get another take, despite trying a number of good spots.
Never mind, the bacon and sausage sandwiches more than made up for the lack of action.
Tight lines to all that are out on the fabulous Severn this weekend.
added: 1st Mar 2013
posted by: Steve Williams
With only a couple of weekends of the season left, we've suddenly hit some half decent conditions.
The Severn's temperature is creeping up and is just below 6deg's at the moment, but with slightly milder...
nights and day time temps pushing up into the high singles, its all looking good for the last two weeks.
The Chub have been feeding well, but as the temperature increases, so the Barbel will switch on too.
Its not to say that you can't catch Barbel when its cold, but as the temp rises, so does their metabolism, and that makes them easier to catch.
I predict that the banks may well be a little busier this weekend.
The sun will be out and that cold north easterly has thankfully gone, it should be a really pleasant weekend to be out on the bank, coupled with the fact that the rivers close to coarse anglers at midnight on the 14th, I expect a few will make the effort.
To be totally honest, I'll be glad when this season finishes.
Its been a bit of a struggle, and the weather has played a big part in that.
I'm already making plans for a few spring sessions on the reservoir after Eels, Tench and Roach, as well as a few trips out to various other venues.
This weekend sees me off to the Thames today for what could be my last go at the big Perch this season, followed by a trip out on my boat on Saturday.
Hopefully we will find the Pike and Zander in an obliging mood, but regardless, I will still enjoy it....
added: 27th Feb 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
The South Esk is centre stage in Scottish salmon fishery politics - yet again. The decision of the Scottish Government to revoke the licence for Usan Fisheries to fish in September, increasing interest...
in the river (see paragraph below), the never-ending debate about mixed stocks coastal nets, the issue of keep-ins (nets fishing through the statutory weekend close times), and the prospect of netting interests exploiting Scottish salmon saved by the decision to end mixed stocks netting on the English NE coast, all amount to a level of attention on the South Esk that, at some future moment, will surely lead to changes in the current regime of wild salmon and sea trout management.
As the recipient of EU Life Funding, priority SEPA funding to deal with diffuse agricultural pollution, the SEPA Rottal Burn Restoration Project, Marine Scotland's 'model' fishery management project and spring salmon tracking, as an SAC with the benefits of EU Habitat Directive protection and supported by a very successful catchment management partnership and plan, you would have thought we should all be basking in contentment, but sadly that isn't the case.
"Why on earth not?" you may ask, "with all that support the South Esk must be the most favoured of all Scottish rivers". Well, in a way you would be right. The river is getting a level of attention, study and funding that any of our beleaguered west coast rivers would be glad to accept.
Unfortunately, the South Esk is the crucible of the worst case of mixed stocks coastal netting of wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout anywhere in the North Atlantic region. The only possible exception is the unsustainable Finnmark fishery where Norwegian netsmen are 'stealing' salmon bound for Russian rivers, and inciting a diplomatic row by continuing to exist. Diplomatic stand-offs with Russia usually end in a Russian victory, so I wouldn't be placing any bets on the future of the Finnmark fishery!
Even the English coastal nets exploiting mixed stocks now have a limited lifespan. Salmon saved by the end of coastal netting south of the border are largely of Scottish origin. Fish saved by that uncharacteristic decision of the Westminster Government to practise genuine conservation will find themselves enmeshed, killed and sent to market by a small group of people continuing the outdated practice of mixed stocks coastal netting on Scotland's east coast. There are lots of ways to get to Billingsgate, but via Montrose seems to be the only one for dead salmon.
Unless; Yes, unless the Scottish Government takes action after recognising that killing salmon belonging to the Dee, Don, North Esk, South Esk and Tay (and who knows how many other rivers - 'the rivers in between'?) is causing serious damage to the economies in the river catchments of east Scotland. Rural communities from Strathdon to Blair Atholl, in Grampian and Tayside are losing out on an income which rightfully should be theirs. I doubt if a single fishery owner is making a profit from letting fishing, but local businesses, especially hotels, B&Bs, cafes, restaurants, tourist hubs, clothing and tackle shops should all be receiving a boost to their income from angling tourism. A regime of exploitation that preserves traditional, artisanal netting interests at the expense of the livelihhods of many hundreds of ordinary people, some in remote villages in the catchments of Scotland's east coast salmon rivers, is surely as dead as a Monty Python parrot! I have deliberately avoided mentioning catch and release, which in conservation terms puts the case for closure of mixed stocks coastal nets beyond debate.
We know that the River Dee earns Deeside about ÂŁ22 million a year from salmon angling. The estimated 320 salmon killed at Usan in May 2011 would have therefore very likely been a real 'hit' on the Deeside economy. If each salmon caught by an angler fishing the Dee is worth about ÂŁ2,750 to the local economy, and if the exploitation rate of May salmon is about 20%, the 'hit' on the Deeside economy by the Usan nets in May 2011 was about 64 x ÂŁ2,750 = ÂŁ176,000. Just that one month! And what about the two Esks? By the same calculation the 'hit' on the North Esk was about 144 x ÂŁ2,750 = ÂŁ396,000 and on the South Esk about 136 x ÂŁ2,750 = ÂŁ374,000. Add in the Tay and Don and you start to get a picture of the level of economic and social damage done by one very effective killing machine - during one month in the season! And I haven't even mentioned the words 'conservation' or 'management'.
If you factor in the probable damage to fragile populations of salmon and sea trout from all affected river catchments, surely the case for regime change is obvious? Or am I missing something? I think not, although I have my suspicions that some old fashioned ideology or prejudice may be driving the agenda: certainly not evidence-based logic, or a recognition that rural communities in the east of Scotland are profoundly impacted by this outdated regime of uncontrolled exploitation of one of Scotland's most iconic and valuable natural resources.
I am all too aware that these arguments have been put forward by many people - from Lord Hunter in the 1960s, to Lord Nickson's Salmon Task Force in the 1990s, to the Mixed Stocks Fishing Working Group of 2009. The arguments stand repetition: they need dusting down and re-presenting to remind everyone involved in salmon fishery management that Scotland stands alone as the only country continuing this outdated practice, that in conservation terms mixed stocks coastal netting is simply unsustainable, and that the damage to rural communities is very significant. In my view these arguments cannot be aired too often.
It is just possible that good management, common sense and simple justice will prevail. The question is "when?"