Many thanks to East Braes B&B for facilitating this camera's location. The River Tweed, or Tweed Water, (Scottish Gaelic: Abhainn Thuaidh) is 97 miles long and flows primarily through the Borders region of Great Britain. It rises on Tweedsmuir at Tweed's Well near where the Clyde, draining northwest, and the Annan draining south also rise. "Annan, Tweed and Clyde rise oot the ae hillside" as the Border saying has it. Coldstream is a small town in the Borders district of Scotland. It lies on the north bank of the River Tweed in Berwickshire, while Northumberland in England lies to the south bank. A former burgh, Coldstream is the home of the Coldstream Guards, a regiment in the British Army, and is the location where Edward I of England invaded Scotland in 1296. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coldstream was a popular centre for runaway marriages, in a similar vein to Gretna Green, as it lay on a major road (now the A697).
The Columns, Boathouse Lane, Norham, TD15 2JZ
Boathouse Cottage has an English Tourism Council four star rating. It stands on its own by the banks of the River Tweed. At the end of a quiet country lane, about half a mile from the centre of Norham village.
added: 1st Dec 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
The role of the AST blog is to give comments on or flavour to AST's activities. I hope our readers will appreciate that its purpose is only to give brief descriptive overview of the stocking conference,...
which ended last Thursday, and that full details will emerge later.
The proceedings of the conference will of course be posted on the AST website in due course. In the meantime the job of this blog is to give our readers a flavour of what took place. I find it instructive that the event was oversubscribed. The fact that so many people wanted to attend the conference says something about how we should engage with people in the world of salmon management. It suggests, for example, that people with an interest in salmon who are very often not scientists, need to receive information in clear, plain English, and not in the sometimes obscure language of the scientist. Perhaps, more importantly, it suggests that by declaring that we are ready to listen to all points of view, to avoid being prescriptive or proscriptive, we can open up a good natured debate, however different views may be.
I think it is also important that there is clarity in distinguishing between the role of the scientist, whose job is to advise on the basis of available facts, and the manager, whose task is to make decisions taking into account all the aspects and needs of the fishery. The two roles are separate and distinct.
[b]IBIS - Integrated Aquatic Resources Management Between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland[b/] - an EU initiative, provided the funding for this event and it was because IBIS covered all the conference costs that numbers were limited. While it was certainly a pity that we didn't bring in everyone who wanted to attend we did have an exceptionally knowledgeableand broadly based audience. In terms of who the conference attracted, it really could not have been better; 150 practitioners, anglers, scientists and managers gathered together to debate this contentious subject. Our congratulations and thanks go to our IBIS partners for excellent organisation and a successful conference.
[b]Stocking as an instrument of salmon fishery management[b/] has for many years been a matter of contention between those who advocate its use as an immediate reaction to counter perceived reduction in numbers of fish, to those who see its use as an action of last resort. The debate has become polarised. One of the objectives of the conference was to remove that polarity in views by dealing with the issue objectively.
The key questions that emerged from the debate were; [b]"What is the purpose of your stocking project? What outcomes do you want/expect, and how are you going to know whether you have achieved them?[b/]
Those questions were dealt with effectively over the course of the two days. While I have no doubt that there are some people who arrived at the conference as advocates of stocking as the first 'go-to' instrument of management, it is fair to claim that the debate gave recognition to all views on the basis that in each case the desired outcome of the stocking action was clearly stated. The antithesis was inferred - that without clarity of desired outcome there can be no place for stocking as a rational instrument of management.
[b]An excellent example is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation)[b/] catchment where natural biodiversity is the stated outcome. The conference agreed that in all SAC salmon rivers there should be a presumption against stocking. In other words, in those rivers, because the objective is natural biodiversity, there should be no human intervention that in any way interferes with the natural process of smolt recruitment.
On the other hand, where the manager's desired outcome is a profitable recreational fishery, and in circumstances where the capacity of that fishery to recruit sufficient naturally recruited smolts is impaired, it may be necessary to introduce stocking as a means of boosting numbers. Examples such as the Ranga in Iceland and the Lochy in Scotland were cited as rivers where for specific reasons - poor spawning and juvenile habitat on the Ranga and impacts of salmon farming on the Lochy - it is expedient and effective to boost salmon numbers artificially, despite the costs of so doing.
The conference achieved a consensus that, provided the manager is clear about why he is taking action and what outcome he wants, stocking does have a place in a toolkit of intervention instruments available to him. Underpinning and informing the moment of decision is the absolute necessity of the fishery manager to understand his stock, in terms of structure, quality (of the individual fish) and numbers. The example of the Moy catchment in Ireland, that supports populations of salmon with different run timings and destinations within the catchment, made the point that stock structures can be complex and require sensitive treatment. The underpinning aspect of stock definition is of course genetics, and that there is some way to go before genetic differentiation between populations within a river's stock will be extensively available.
If there was a simple message for the fishery manager, dealing with a complex issue, it was "If you think you have a problem with your river's salmon stock, pause and think hard before you take action". The 'thinking' requires knowledge of the stock, an understanding of the perceived problem, evaluation of available options and a clear statement of desired outcomes. That considered approach should encourage managers to make the right decision.
I feel the conference did much to clear the air. It certainly seemed to erode a few prejudices! Speaking for myself, it also cleared my head on a few issues!
AST 1 December 2013
added: 13th Nov 2013
posted by: Fish Tweed
(Last updated: Monday 11th November)
Another successful week on Tweedside with 922 Salmon and 32 Sea Trout reported for the week. Catches were again spread throughout the river system with river levels...
being around 2ft 4" on Monday this height suited the upper and middle river beats as well as a fewer lower beats also, the river still carrying some colour this affected catches and also the amount of leaves in the river were a nuisance. It was good to hear of an increase in some fresh fish being caught and again these were being caught from the lower river up to some beats on the upper river.
I spoke with Mr Simon Cotton who along with his son and daughter, Frank and Lilly and friend Ralph Brown, had a successful 3 days fishing at Birgham Dub, catching 29 Salmon. Ralph Brown had the biggest fish of the trip with a coloured Cock fish measuring 40" long and weighing 27lbs. Lilly Cotton also had her biggest fish yet with a Sea Liced Salmon at 14lbs, not to be out done young Frank Cotton also had a sea liced fish at 19lbs, he also had a red letter day at Sprouston, where he was invited to fish there by Mr John Marshall and managed to hook and land 7 salmon on a small Snealda Tube.
I bumped into Tom Davis, head Ghillie at Lower Birgham who said that they had a good week landing 32 salmon and a Sea Trout, he also commented that the smaller fish were fresh as paint, with the bigger fish being in the river a while.
Again there were some big fish around with Boleside landing a 32lb Salmon, which was caught by Mr Edward Evans from London out of Glenmayne on a Comet tube fly, Nigel Fell the head ghillie also mentioned that a Dr Sefton Suffren caught a 12lbs salmon from the garden back whilst wading, which is no small feat as he is 94 years old!!!. Also Ravenswood landing a 29lb Salmon, congratulations to all these anglers. I also heard of a fish that was lost on Friday on the Mertoun Syndicate beat, that was played for over an hour and snapped 20lb Maxima nylon.!!!
The Rivers levels were falling after a rise in levels on Sunday and the river was carrying some colour, the moderate to strong westerly wind was also making fishing difficult with the addition of more leaves in the river, but there were 100 Salmon and 14 Sea Trout reported, with Upper Makerstoun catching the biggest fish at 22lbs.
River levels were still falling, and this lower river height started to suit middle and lower river beats, with the wind and the leaves still present catches were an improvement from the previous day.
There were 216 Salmon and 2 Sea Trout reported, with Tillmouth, Middle Pavilion and Cardrona sharing the largest fish at 25lbs.
River levels were up by 6" from the previous day, due to heavy rain in the west of the catchment, and the river was to rise again mid afternoon and start to colour up, with what could only be described as road wash, as it had a greyish tinge to it, water temperatures were dropping also due to overnight frost, and the leaves were again an issue in the afternoon.
This affected catches slightly with 169 Salmon and 2 Sea Trout reported, with Boleside catching the largest fish at 32lbs.
The morning started with a hard frost with blue sky and sunny spells for most of the day, the wind was to pick up mid morning again causing leaves to become an issue, the river was carrying a tinge of colour. catches were down on the day previous with 131 Salmon and 1 Sea Trout reported. Junction caught the biggest fish with a 22lber.
Again it was a hard frost in the morning with sunny spells and light winds with the river in perfect condition, catches were up slightly on day previous with 152 Salmon and 10 Sea Trout reported, with Fairnilee catching the biggest fish at 22lbs.
Another hard frost and again bright overhead conditions, with the river running clear and ideal conditions, winds were light and a manageable amount of leaves were coming down the river, there were 154 Salmon and 3 Sea Trout reported with Ravenswood catching the biggest fish at 29lbs.
added: 8th Nov 2013
posted by: Fish Tweed
(week ending 2nd November What a difference a week can make and what a week it was on Tweedside. Even with some unsettled river conditions, beats still reported 876 Salmon and 33 Sea Trout with fish reported...
from above the tide and right up to Dawyck. There were also some BIG fish about with a couple of 30lbers and a 50lb fish reported also I heard of a few more that were lost after a long battle.
On Monday we started the week with Falling river levels after heavy rain on Sunday, this extra water affected beats below Kelso as the Teviot was putting a lot of colour in to the river, so catches were confined to middle and upper river. There were 54 Salmon and 8 Sea Trout Reported with Boleside catching the biggest fish at 25lbs, This fish was caught by Mr Seamus Jennings who is one of the owners of Boleside and was his personal best, his son Peter Jennings also had a similar sized fish.
Tuesday was to be a better fishing day with the river clearing sufficient for beats below Kelso to fish and there were 104 Salmon and 6 Sea Trout Reported with Boleside catching the biggest fish at 50lbs!!!
This Fish was caught by Mr Seamus Jennings in Glenmayne Pool using a Skagit Shooting Head with type 6 tip attached and the successful fly was a Boleside Shrimp tube. The fish was hooked from the boat and Nigel Fell, beat ghillie had to manoeuvre the boat on four separate occasions as the fish began to tire and drop downstream, after 45 minutes it was successfully netted on the 4th time that it was pulled towards the river bank. Nigel proceeded to quickly measure the fishes length and girth and two photographs were quickly taken ( unfortunately these photos do not show the fishes true size due to the angle and position of the fish at the time the pictures were taken), and the fish was returned with Nigel holding the fish until it was becoming difficult to hold onto with the fish regaining its strength and was kicking its tail, it swam away strongly into the middle of the pool.
The coloured Cock fish was measured at 50" inches Long and had a Girth of 33"inches, Nigel guestimated the fish to be around the 45-47lb mark, but rather than announce the capture of the fish on Tuesday, it was decided to pass the measurements and photographs to Dr Ronald Campbell (Tweed Biologist) who has a Formula for working out fish sizes from measurements taken from Tweed fish and he confirmed the weight of the fish to be 50.1lbs.
Dr Campbell also used the same method to confirm last years Malloch Trophy winning 47lber caught by Mr Jim Reid on Bemersyde, River Tweed.
The last 50lb+ Salmon caught on the Tweed system was in 1925 and weighed 50.5lbs and was caught by Dr J.Rudd on Birgham Dub in the Autumn of that year, and the Boleside fish must be one of the biggest Salmon caught in the UK for a number of years.
i would like to take this opportunity to pass on my congratulations to both Nigel and Seamus for landing what is the fish of dreams for many Salmon Fishers, and was disappointed with some of the comments left by some people on both the Fishtweed Blog and Facebook pages, who doubted the size of this fish, hence the reason to involve Dr Campbell and his expertise in this area.
We started the day with ideal conditions and the catches were to show this with 224 Salmon and 2 Sea Trout reported, with Boleside and Drygrange sharing the biggest fish at 30lbs.
The Boleside 30lber was caught by Ghillie Nigel Fell on a Boleside Shrimp and he also lost a similar sized fish earlier in the day, the Drygrange 30lber was caught by Mr Michael Draper and was taken on a Gledswood Black and Yellow Tube fly, again both fish returned after measuring etc.
The River was rising during the morning which affected catches from some of the middle river beats, but there were 111 Salmon and 12 Sea Trout reported , with Traquair catching the biggest fish at 21lbs.
Saw a settled river but a drop in temperature seemed to unsettle the fish during the morning with the bulk of the catches being in the afternoon.
There were 177 Salmon and 4 Sea Trout reported, with Upper North Wark catching the biggest fish at 25lbs.
The river was steady and carrying a slight tinge of colour but heavy rain at lunchtime started to affect some beats with road wash and small side streams colouring up and by the end of the day all gauges were rising.
There were 206 Salmon and 5 Sea Trout reported with Middle Pavilion and Traquair sharing the biggest fish at 24lbs.
Boleside again had some big fish to report, Mrs Lucy Heaton a novice Salmon angler had two fish one at 18lb and the other 25lb, also on Saturday a member of Mr Bill Elderkins party had a 21lb fish.
Various beats throughout the system had large numbers of fish for the week, with Traquair reporting 92 for the week, Fairnilee had 82 and Boleside reporting 72 for the week, with 7 of them over 20lbs in weight.
added: 29th Oct 2013
posted by: Fish Tweed
Head Boatman Willy Elliot reports on Sunday 27th October
" Weather conditions took an unexpected turn for the worse last week with a 7 foot flood on Tuesday which meant we were off for 2 days, one of...
only a few times this season. We had a few fish on Thursday to 16 lbs and were hoping that the rain would have passed through on Friday but this was not the case and there was again no fishing yesterday. It remains to be seen whether we get part of the big storm tomorrow scheduled for the South. The prospects for next week therefore look mixed but perhaps good towards the end of the week. Fishermen should therefore bring their heavy lines and brass tubes".
added: 29th Oct 2013
posted by: Fish Tweed
(Last updated: Monday 28th October)
We started the week with falling river levels following heavy rain in the west of the catchment that had the Boleside river level gauge peaking at 2ft, and the Roxburgh...
gauge on the Teviot peaking at 3ft.
With the river carrying a lot of colour this affected catches on the Monday, plus heavy rain for most of the day had levels rising again by Monday evening which peaked on the Boleside gauge at over 4ft and on the Roxburgh gauge on Teviot nearly 5ft, this put paid to any fishing on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was the much needed spate that the river was needing to give the river bed a good clean out and encourage coloured fish up the tributaries to spawn, and hopefully make way for some fresher fish to push upriver.
Thursday was a better fishing day with the river still carrying colour but at least you could see 2-3ft into it, and the sun managed to put in an appearance for a while, catches improved slightly but Friday was the best day of the week with the river clearing, but rain in the west of the catchment again had levels rising by mid-morning and the upper and middle river were finished by the afternoon, due to the river rising and colouring up.
Saturday had levels falling on the upper to middle river, but still rising on the lower river mainly due to the Teviot peaking at 4ft and carrying lot of colour.
There were a few fish caught but mostly on the upper river as this cleared a little quicker through the course of the day.
There were a few big fish around this week with Boleside, Fairnilee and Bemersyde reporting fish 20lbs and over. Boathouse reported a fish of 30lbs on Friday and congratulations to the captor of a fish of a lifetime.
I had reports of a few fresh fish being caught this week, but with the river being so unsettled I dare say there would have been more, some of these fish being into good double figures.
There were 30 Salmon and 9 Sea Trout reported, with Dawyck catching the biggest fish at 16lbs.
River un-fishable due to spate conditions.
There was only 1 Sea Trout reported from Traquir at 5lbs.
River un-fishable due to spate conditions.
There were 35 Salmon and 5 Sea Trout reported, with Bemersyde catching the biggest fish at 23lbs.
Traquair caught the biggest Sea Trout at 8lbs.
There were 76 Salmon and 6 Sea Trout reported, with Boathouse catching the biggest at 30lbs.
There were 46 Salmon and 3 Sea Trout reported, with Boleside and Fairnilee sharing the biggest fish at 20lbs.
Total for week 188 Salmon and 24 Sea Trout.
Beat catches reported
(week ending 26th October)
SALMON & GRILSE: Pedwell 5, Ladykirk 9, The Boathouse 9, Milne Graden 6, Tillmouth 8, West Learmouth 5, Upper North Wark 6, Lower Birgham 1, Hendersyde 2, Upper Hendersyde 1, Junction 4, Rutherford 6, Dryburgh North 4, Bemersyde 2, Ravenswood 4, Drygrange 7, Lower Pavilion 6, Boleside 17, Sunderland Hall 2, Fairnilee 16, Nest 6, Ashiestiel 4, Holylee 13, Traquair 13, Glenormiston 9, Cardrona Fishings Ltd 10, Dawyck 8, BlueStone 3, Middle Ettrick 2.
Total: 188 Largest: The Boathouse 30lbs
SEA TROUT: Ladykirk Lower 1, Ladykirk 1, Tillmouth 1, West Learmouth 2, Upper North Wark 1, Hendersyde 1, Lower Pavilion 1, Boleside 3, Fairnilee 3, Ashiestiel 1, Holylee 3, Traquair 1, Glenormiston 4, Dawyck 1.
Total: 24 Largest: Lower Pavilion & Traquair 8lbs
added: 22nd Oct 2013
posted by: Fish Tweed
Page updated: Monday 21st October
A frustrating week on Tweedside, with good catches made on the first half of the week throughout the system, probably due to the more seasonal weather continuing and...
the cooler water temperatures bringing fish on the take, the low water levels suiting beats below Kelso and making fishing difficult on the upper river beats, at last we got a rise in river levels on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning which had levels rising on Tweed, Teviot, Ettrick and Whiteadder peaking at about 2ft on these rivers, not the big spate that we were all hoping for, but a much needed lift all the same, this had the effect of making the river unfishable due to a very coloured river and a lot of weed and leaf debris, with only a few beats having success.
As usual with the weather, "it doesn't rain but it pours", and we had another lift on the Friday evening/Saturday morning this did not affect middle beats until lunchtime, but the Till also got this rainfall and it peaked at 3ft, which would affect beats below its confluence on Saturday morning due to coloured water and this shows on catch returns for Saturday. Again we had more rain early on Sunday morning and this had levels rising again on Tweed, Teviot and Ettrick.
With this extra water it was good to hear that a lot of fish were seen running, both on the main river and the tributaries, most of these were coloured, and I would imagine that these will be Springer's and Summer Salmon and Sea trout making there way upstream to spawn. I had been told a few times this week of Salmon starting to make Redds on various beats throughout the river system, but hopefully this water will encourage these fish upriver to where they should be spawning, and make way for some fresh fish to come up off the tide, as there has been a lack of these Silver fish on the Middle and Upper River.
There were 145 Salmon and 13 Sea Trout reported, with Sprouston catching the biggest fish at 25lbs.
Boleside had the biggest Sea Trout at 6lbs.
There were 118 Salmon and 5 Sea Trout reported, with Tweedhill catching the biggest at 23lbs.
Lower Makerstoun had the biggest Sea Trout at 7lbs.
There were 105 salmon and 6 Sea Trout reported, with Tillmouth catching the biggest Salmon at 33lbs.
There were 15 Salmon and 4 Sea Trout reported, with Horncliffe catching the biggest at 12lbs.
There were 34 Salmon and 10 Sea Trout reported, with Boleside catching the biggest at 18lbs.
Upper North Wark had the biggest Sea Trout at 7lbs.
There were 40 Salmon and 10 Sea Trout reported, with Milne Graden and West Learmouth sharing the biggest at 18lbs.
Holylee had the biggest Sea Trout at 14lbs.
Totals for week 457 Salmon and 48 Sea Trout.
Beat catches reported
(week ending 19th October)
SALMON & GRILSE: Tweedhill 44, Horncliffe 15, Ladykirk Lower 20, Pedwell 9, Ladykirk 12, The Boathouse 9, Milne Graden 10, Tillmouth 40, West Learmouth 25, Upper North Wark 1, Lower Birgham 6, Birgham Dub 59, Sprouston 9, Hendersyde 24, Upper Hendersyde 8, Junction 29, Lower Makerstoun 2, Upper Makerstoun 5, Rutherford 14, Dryburgh North 13, Bemersyde 16, Ravenswood 5, Drygrange 4, Tweedswood 2, Lower Pavilion 3, Middle Pavilion 8, Boleside 21, Sunderland Hall 8, Fairnilee 11, Nest 8, Ashiestiel 7, Holylee 4, Traquair 1, Cardrona Fishings Ltd 5, BlueStone 1.
Total: 458 Largest: Tillmouth 33lbs
SEA TROUT: Tillmouth 6, Upper North Wark 1, Lower Birgham 2, Hendersyde 5, Lower Makerstoun 1, Rutherford 5, Dryburgh North 2, Bemersyde 1, Ravenswood 4, Lower Pavilion 3, Boleside 2, Sunderland Hall 1, Fairnilee 3, Ashiestiel 2, Holylee 4, Traquair 4, Glenormiston 1, Cardrona Fishings Ltd 1.
Total: 48 Largest: Holylee 14lbs
added: 19th Oct 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
Scottish east coast Salmon and the Usan Mixed Stocks Fishery
A mixed stocks fishery confirmed
Marine Scotland’s South Esk Tracking Project is designed to find out where the River’s...
early running salmon go within the South Esk catchment to breed. Following identification of spawning and juvenile habitats locations it is hoped that an assessment of the physical condition of the river in those places will lead to targeted improvements. To some extent at the end of year 2 (of 3) we can say that objective is being met, although sample numbers are very low.
It is no surprise to learn from the MS tracking project that Usan nets are killing spring salmon from many, if not all east coast rivers. With proof that the Spey is also impacted by the activities of the Montrose-based nets it is now established that the Rivers Spey, Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay are affected. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Earn, Deveron, Ythan, Uigie and Findhorn may also be included in the list, not to mention the smaller rivers – The Rivers in Between - such as rivers Bervie, Cowie, Lunan, Eden, about which I wrote recently.
All Scotland’s east coast rivers are affected.
In other words, all the main North East salmon rivers – the jewels in the crown of Scottish wild spring salmon – are being impacted by the activities of one small operation near Montrose. That is a high price to pay for the part-time jobs of a small family business. It is not fanciful to claim that Usan Fisheries Ltd is holding the survival our national reserve of these iconic spring fish to ransom, apparently supported by our government. Why?
Disagreement on the ‘natural capital’ value of wild salmon.
Conflict between conservation & mixed stocks exploitation.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about the effects of exploitation of both Atlantic salmon and sea trout by the coastal nets sited South of Montrose. Quite a lot of what has been said has been speculative and sometimes exaggerated, but no-one can deny that feelings on the subject have been running high on both sides of the debate. An early casualty of emotional arguments is truth, and the Usan nets issue is no exception.
It is unfortunate that during their fishing season the nets have first opportunity to kill incoming salmon and sea trout migrations. Imagine a situation where nets and rods had equal and simultaneous access to the fish. In that scenario there’s not much doubt that agreement would have been reached long ago on how to share the ‘harvest’. Sadly it doesn’t work like that.
Every returning adult salmon is a survivor
After their long migration salmon arrive off the Scottish east coast. Swimming close to the shore, many become enmeshed in carefully sited coastal nets. These fish, so close to their destination, are survivors of about 95% marine mortality between their departure as smolts from fresh water to their return as adult fish. All netted fish are of course killed as they are brought into the boat. Those that avoid the nets might then enter their river of choice. Alternatively they might move on up or down the coast; or, especially if river levels are low and there is only a weak chemical signal inviting them into fresh water, they may just hang around close to estuaries, remaining vulnerable repeatedly to being netted.
Before any fish can enter the river, they therefore have to run the gauntlet at least once as they either caught in the nets, or bypass them. All this happens before a single angler has seen, let alone caught, even one fish.
Perceptions among fishery managers and anglers are that the high-value visiting angler only gets to fish for what the nets have failed to catch. It is the resulting sense of unfairness – crumbs from the laird’s table as it were - among anglers that fuels the argument between netting and fishery management. Isn’t it an irony that those who defend the rights of the netsmen often do so on the grounds of wealth and class? That over-used argument tells us that salmon anglers are wealthy leisure seekers – while the owners of netting interests feast sumptuously off profits from killing survivors of returning migrations of salmon.
The modern angler is more environmentally sensitive than their predecessors were even ten years ago. During the main part of the season they are left to fish for what is left behind by the nets. Moreover, the number of fish killed has decreased through catch & release (70%+). Meanwhile there has been no move towards quotas or increasing the nets slap times. On the contrary, weekend slap times are routinely ignored, more coastal netting stations are being reopened, more salmon killed and financial incentives and support is offered by the Scottish Government and European Commission to the netsmen.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The local economy?
Who benefits from the nets?
Who benefits from the visiting angler?
Where is the sense in all this?
What is significant in biodiversity terms about ‘mixed stocks’ exploitation?
Salmon, and perhaps to a lesser extent sea trout, tend to be ‘loyal’ to their rivers of birth. I say “tend” only because there are many examples of salmon straying. How else could salmon in the River Mersey have re-colonised a river that was to all intents and purposes dead as a result of industrial pollution? There are also many examples of ‘hatchery stocking’ using ova or fry from other rivers, or of fish ‘going up the wrong river’, or changing their minds having entered one river only to go to another one to spawn.
The 'core stock' of a river, with its unique DNA signature(s) is pretty robust, having withstood challenges from straying salmon with different genetic make-ups for millennia. Unless the core stock is swamped, as has happened in rivers where farmed salmon in unprecedented numbers have interbred with the wild fish stock, the genetic integrity of the salmon ‘belonging’ to a river is likely to survive. Intermittent hatchery stocking or salmon straying naturally from other rivers are unlikely to damage the core stock. On the contrary, they may even strengthen it, in much the same way as antibodies strengthen resistance to disease. Of course there are other examples, especially in USA and Canada, where huge dams have eradicated the stock, and the genetic signature of that river is gone forever. That is a tragedy because those genetics have evolved over centuries in response to the physical, geological, chemical and biological characteristics of the river. We must therefore make every effort to preserve the signature DNA of all our rivers where irreparable damage hasn’t already been done.
We should recognise the value of natural biodiversity as the fruit of evolution in the context of every ecosystem. Therefore we shouldn’t be misled into thinking that the tendency of wild Atlantic salmon to stray to other rivers conflicts with the genetic predisposition of nearly every fish of a particular river to return to its home waters to breed. Nothing is so jet black or marble white in the natural world. That genetic preference is part of the DNA makeup of wild Atlantic salmon. In situations, such as the South Esk, where populations of fish within the overall stock of the river can we think be distinguished from each other by their genetic differences, together they define the structure of the river’s stock that has evolved since the last ice age. Scientists and managers are continuing to fill in the detail of genetic attribution maps.
As things stand there is a varied picture of genetic description of stocks and their populations in the NE Atlantic bioregion, ranging from tributary-specific attributions to broad-brush regional ones. Over time, like the detail of a landscape painting being added after the structure of the painting’s composition, the detail will describe with some accuracy which genetic groups of fish belong to which rivers. It is work in progress.
The impossibility of effective fishery management.
Growing awareness of the importance of gene types should persuade us to take special care of rivers where we suspect that some populations, or even the whole stock, may be in a fragile condition. Fishery managers try to use the precautionary principle as a safety net to justify making timely interventions to protect threatened groups of fish. Unfortunately it is not possible to protect any population in any Scottish east coast river while mixed stocks coastal netting as practised by Usan Fisheries continues. The existence of an interceptive fishery that kills salmon indiscriminately from six identified rivers, and almost certainly many others, prevents effective management taking place in any of them.
What does the term “sustainable” mean in this context? It is a situation apparently summarised by the politically motivated thought, “the rod fishery will have to be managed with the Usan fishery continuing its lethal exploitation of unknown stocks”. In fact it is impossible for fishery managers to take effective decisions to protect stocks while that mixed stocks fishery exists. You would have thought that, while genetic mapping continues to fill in the detail of populations attributable to rivers, at least a pause would be called on killing fish from stocks where there is a degree of concern that some populations may be fragile (or in technical parlance, ‘below conservation levels’). That pause should include both rods and nets i.e. no killing at all. If Catch and Release is shown to be politically unacceptable in terms of perceived equity and fairness, then both fisheries - rods and nets - should be closed. After all, the priority is to conserve the fish, not the people that exploit them!