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Ellon

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Ythan - Ellon

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Frasers of EllonYthan District Fishery Board
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Many thanks to Frasers of Ellon for facilitating this camera's location. The origin of the name Ythan is unclear but may be derived from the gaelic word ‘Athan’ meaning Ford suggesting a fordable river. Reference to a river called ‘Ituna’ is made in some old reports relating to the times of the Roman presence in the area approximately 220AD. The river Ythan originates from a convergence of small burns in the vicinity of Ythan Wells near Auchterless at approximately 800ft above sea level. The river is approximately 39 miles long running through the villages of Fyvie and Methlick and the town of Ellon to reach the sea at Newburgh some 12 miles north of Aberdeen.

Local Sponsors

Frasers of Ellon - house furnishings

Frasers of Ellon - house furnishings

Frasers of Ellon. Ythan Terrace, Ellon, AB41 9LL


All types of furniture, traditional and modern; a huge selection of carpets and floor coverings, including wood and laminate flooring, and an excellent selection of beds.

Website | Email | 01358 720363

Ythan District Fishery Board.

Ythan District Fishery Board.

Mark H T Andrew (Clerk), The Estate Office, Mains of Haddo, Tarves, Ellon, AB41 7LD


Is empowered to protect, enhance and conserve Atlantic Salmon and the Sea Trout and has a general duty to ensure the protection and enhancement of the fishery within the Ythan catchment.

Website | Email | 01651 851664

Local Reports

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Usan Coastal Nets

added: 2nd Mar 2014

Mixed Stocks Fisheries. The Lairds of our Coast and wild salmon. Breath-taking arrogance, unsustainable, out-of-date, and cause for international censure.

After years of abuse of the netting...

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slap periods, Usan Fisheries have at last been brought to account. To anyone concerned about the state of salmon and sea trout stocks on the east coast of Scotland, they will feel that this legal action is long overdue.

Sailing close to the wind. Did Usan jibe?

It is widely recognised by everyone involved in salmon fishery management that the activities of the Usan Salmon Fishery have at times been somewhat ‘close to the wind’ in terms of the law. The weekly slap times, when nets are by law supposed to be rendered inactive by removing the leaders to the bag nets, are in place to support the conservation of salmon, grilse and sea trout. They are most certainly not regulations for a pick and choose approach by Usan Fisheries, arguably the most destructive mixed stocks fishery remaining in the UK.

The owners of the Usan Salmon Fisheries company now face 12 charges relating to alleged incidents in Angus and Fife during August and September 2013. The locations cited are at Boddin, Dysart, Ethie Haven and Scurdie Ness. If it transpires that their nets were operating in the month of September it will confirm the extraordinary arrogance – some might say the behaviour of people who seem to regard the Scottish coast as their fiefdom, and all salmon as their property – of a fishery which surely is now an anachronism, putting Scotland’s inept management of its wild salmon into international pariah status. The fact is that September is outwith the netting season. Transgression of statutory season closures is surely tantamount to poaching?

Of the twelve charges, five are related to netting salmon every weeekend in August from 1800 on Fridays to 0600 on Mondays, all outwith the statutory weekly close time for net fisheries.

All this may seem petty and somewhat arcane to anyone unfamiliar with the operations of Usan Salmon Fisheries. This company, which has long received political and moral support from government and funding from the EU, takes salmon in unknown numbers from most, if not all, east coast salmon rivers. No-one knows which populations of fish are being exploited, some of which may be in a fragile condition (as is the case with the government’s own assessment of South Esk spring salmon). The activities of Usan Salmon Fisheries make it impossible for fishery managers on all affected rivers to assess the condition of their salmon stocks.

The existence of that mixed stocks net fishery is simply bad fishery management, and it is time to take full control of their exploitation. If it is found that they have been flouting the law, notwithstanding health and safety considerations, it will become absolutely clear that they cannot be trusted to manage their operations within the law. Appropriate measures to curb their activities, on conservation grounds alone, must surely follow?

And I haven’t even touched on the immense damage being done by one small family business to the rural economy and communities from Fife to Inverness!

TA

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AST/IBIS Stocking Conference

added: 1st Dec 2013

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,...

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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!

Tony Andrews

AST 1 December 2013

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Sandy's Report

added: 19th Oct 2013

weil weil a sup rain noo at shood let a puckle salmon and troot n finnok ging up the the river, see a een or twa accend anith the auld brig at ellon is morning, a puckle salmon and grilse teen is wik...

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fae boatie tams till abeen ellon, noo i believe we are ghang ti get sup o rain, forcast till at least winisday should auger weil for the upper beets o the ythan gettin a crack at trying er luck at fishing, young loon ben macdonald, noo little mare than four yer all has been catching fish be the dizen finnok a back,sea troot a bak, a flook and and ben had few grilse in the last twa wiks he a gweed grilse kept aboot7 pun noo rember a finnok, n a seatroot a bak as weil , ticht lines tae ye a the doric bailiff s/m

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Mixed stocks netting

added: 19th Oct 2013

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...

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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?

Local communities?

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!

TA

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Fish in the River

added: 1st Oct 2013

Salmon, grilse and sea trout being caught from the by-pass bridge to the railway bridge at Ellon. Some fish caught upstream but very few anglers.

Remember that all sea trout to be returned from today.

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Rivers In Between

added: 22nd Sep 2013

Scottish Rivers regularly in the news such as the Tay, Dee and North and South Esks, of which all except the North Esk are EU designated Special Areas of Conservation(SACs), may draw attention away...

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from little east-flowing rivers such as the Lunan, Cowie and Bervie, which have unique catchments and their own estuaries into the North Sea. It is easy to forget them. This blog is about the River Bervie and the problem it currently has with a naturally recurring impassable barrier to salmon and sea trout as it enters the North Sea. To see the photos referred to in this report please visit the bulletin blog for 22/9/2013 at www.finavoncastlefishing.co.uk.

You may wonder what the problems of the River Bervie have to do with FCW and the South Esk. If you are having such a thought, do read on!

The River Bervie.

The Bervie rises in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains and flows for about 20 miles through upland farms and forestry before entering the agricultural land of the Mearns and flowing into the North Sea at Inverbervie. While the catchment is quite small, at about 85 square miles, the river is prone to big flood events from the high ground of the Eastern Grampians, as are neighbouring rivers such as the North Esk, the Cowie and (on the other side of the catchment watershed) the River Feugh, a tributary of the Aberdeenshire Dee.

The Bervie estuary is located between Stonehaven and Montrose, and its neighbouring major rivers are the North Esk to the south and the Aberdeenshire Dee to the north. The Bervie has populations of Atlantic salmon, sea trout and indigenous brown trout. The river is fished regularly by local angling clubs. Recently the Esks Rivers and Fisheries Trust, which is responsible for habitat management of the Bervie, mounted a successful programme to eradicate a serious invasion of Japanese knotweed from the banks of the middle river.

Photo: General view of the River Bervie estuary ,showing the shingle bar that denies access of salmon and sea trout to the river.

Yesterday, prompted by an e-mail from a concerned angler, I visited the estuary of the River Bervie in Inverbervie. The photos in this bulletin show all too clearly the problems of this little Mearns river as it enters the sea.

I have fished the Bervie for wild trout for many years, so I can vouch for the excellent habitat the river provides for migratory and indigenous wild salmonids at all stages of their freshwater growth. It is a gem of a small river!

The photo above shows in detail the problem faced by migrating salmon, grilse and sea trout attempting to access the river. Strong winds and tides have swept huge quantities of heavy shingle (cobbles with an average diameter of 2 to 3") into an extended 'mound' that completely blocks access. The photo was taken at high tide.

I remember seeing salmon redds in the cobble sections of the middle river pools during the winter months. There have been many occasions in summer months when I have caught more than a dozen small wild trout on a dry fly in its pools and riffles. The biggest wild trout I have ever caught in the river weighed less than one pound! The Bervie is a fertile and productive small river with a deceptively steep catchment gradient, and consequent high energy flood events. It is quite a dynamic river.

The photo above shows the lagoon caused by the shingle barrier at high tide preventing the river reaching the sea by percolating through the cobbles of the beach. The water is backed up to create this area of fresh water.

So salmon do get into the river, and the problems of natural estuary obstructions are nothing new. No doubt generations of Bervie salmon have adjusted their run timings to enable them to make use of good levels of freshwater and high tides in the winter, spring and autumn months. In previous years(I don't know why it has not been done this year) bulldozers have moved the shingle aside to allow fish access.

This photo shows how the banked-up shingle of rounded cobbles and large diameter gravel causes a barrier to fish migration. The picture was taken at high tide when river water is unable to reach the sea by percolating through the shingle.

I believe that the issue is not the shingle barrier itself (although it would of course be better if it were routinely removed) but that mixed stocks coastal netting in the districts of the North and South Esks is probably causing potentially serious damage to Bervie salmon and sea trout stocks. It is the combination of that unknown level of exploitation with the effect of the estuarine barrier that should be the cause of concern.

Photo of the sea side of the shingle barrier with an angler spinning at the very point where the river should enter the sea. While I was there I saw a number of grilse and sea trout leaping clear of the water a few feet away from the steep shingle bank.

The photo above is the view upstream from the footbridge at the sea pool of the River Bervie. The river's water has been backed up by the high tide, which prevents the fresh water reaching the sea by seeping through the shingle barrier.

The Marine Scotland South Esk Tracking Project confirmed in 2012 that the coastal nets at Usan, south of Montrose, are killing early running multi sea-winter salmon from a range of rivers, including the Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay.

The small east coast rivers, of which the Bervie is one, tend to have summer and autumn runs of salmon and grilse, rather than early running spring salmon. Because the MSS S Esk project focuses on tagging spring salmon (up to 31st May) it is therefore unlikely that any salmon or grilse bound for the Bervie were tagged. However, given the spread of exploitation by the Usan fishery, it is very likely that Bervie fish are killed by the nets later in the season. In a dry year, as 2013 has been, fish arriving off the coast are reluctant or unable to enter rivers affected by low levels of flow and high water temperatures. Fish that hang around in the sea, close to river estuaries, waiting for a summer freshet are exceptionally vulnerable to predation, disease, netting and natural stresses (such as the large amount of energy required for osmo-regulation).

The situation for the Bervie is exacerbated by the naturally occurring blockage of the estuary by beach shingle. The level of risk for the Bervie's salmon stock, caused by the inability of fish to enter the river, at the same time as natural attrition in a dry year and unknown impacts from lethal exploitation by the Usan nets, may threaten the viability of the river to produce sufficient ova to ensure natural sustainability. That surely is a serious issue that needs to be addressed soon? It is not only the South Esk that suffers unknown levels of depredation of its salmon populations. Indeed, some people might with justification argue that it is "the rivers in between" that are most threatened by continuation of mixed stocks netting.

TA 22 September 2013

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Fish in the Ythan

added: 17th Sep 2013

Good numbers of salmon now in the lower reaches of the river from Ellon by-pass bridge up to the auld bridge in the centre of the town. Includes The Meadows/Boat of Fechil and Boatie Tam's.

Some salmon...

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and sea trout being caught on the AADA, Schivas and lower Haddo beats. 3 female fish (around 7lbs) caught and returned at Schivas and 14lb fish caught at Ellon today.

Numbers of anglers are increasing. Don't be fooled by the low water!