Thursday, November 25, 2010

Salmon Fishing Scotland Netting company secures large grant and infuriates Angling interests.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Netting company secures large grant and infuriates Angling interests.

This was an article in our local paper recently written by Chris Hardy.

Anglers' anger at Usan Salmon Fisheries grant.

A £100,000 European grant to a Montrose firm has prompted the angling lobby to accuse the Scottish Government of ignoring accepted conservation principles and dealing a major blow to conservation.

Usan Salmon Fisheries Ltd was given the money to invest in its netting business, and wild fish organisations have accused the European Union and the Scottish Government of failing to apply consistent policy on salmon conservation.

Damning the grant award, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland, the Atlantic Salmon Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association accused the Usan fisheries of indiscriminately exploiting fish destined for rivers on Scotland's east coast.

Usan Fisheries responded that behind the accusation was a desire to exterminate traditional salmon netting in Scotland at any cost, rather than species conservation.

Director George Pullar described the claims as a baseless attack on his firm's success by interests looking to protect sport fishing for the privileged.

ASFB chairman Alan Williams, on behalf of the four fishery bodies, said the EU and Scotland were signatories to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) Convention that salmon fisheries should only target stocks at "full reproductive capacity."

He said the mixed-stock nature of the Usan operation meant the viability of the individual stocks being exploited was unknown by definition.

The Scottish Government was on recent record as saying it recognised the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea "that fisheries on mixed stocks, either in coastal or distant waters, pose particular difficulties for management."

NASCO has defined mixed-stock fisheries as exploiting a significant number of salmon from two or more river stocks.

Mr Williams said it was also relevant that the nearest river to Usan's nets is the South Esk, a special area of conservation (SAC) for Atlantic salmon under the EU's Habitats Directive.

The EU and the Scottish Government were legally obliged to protect the integrity of SACs.

Mr Williams said, "It beggars belief that public money is being used to improve the effectiveness of a major mixed-stock salmon netting operation given the international consensus that exploitation of fish outside their river of origin is poor management practice.

"This grant amounts to a major slap in the face to all those who have worked tirelessly on salmon conservation over the last two decades to ensure a sustainable future for one of our most iconic species.

"Although the grant emanates from the EU, there can be no doubt that Scottish Government bears considerable responsibility as it advises on, vets and signs off applications for fisheries grants from Scottish companies.

"On the one hand Scottish Government pays lip-service to salmon conservation, whilst on the other it gives financial and marketing support to those who seek to maximise commercial exploitation of our wild salmon before they reach their river of origin."

Tony Andrews, chief executive of the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), said that populations of early-running salmon in all three affected SAC rivers — Tay, Dee and South Esk — were not as abundant as they were 30 years ago.

He said, "The AST's position is that uncertainty on the viability of stocks in these three rivers, from which the Usan mixed-stock fishery kills large numbers of salmon, dictates the necessity of applying the precautionary measure of closing this net fishery with immediate effect."

Paul Knight, chief executive officer of the Salmon and Trout Association, said, "This episode only goes to prove what wild fish organisations have suspected for many years — that there is no political commitment to protect one of Scotland's most iconic natural resources, the wild Atlantic salmon.

"A recent major official report made recommendations as to the future management of mixed-stock fisheries, but several months later has yet to receive a response from the Scottish Government...

"Is it any wonder that wild fish interests feel discriminated against?"

Usan Fisheries is one of the few remaining salmon netters in the country and the grant, given with the support of the European Fisheries Fund, (EFF) will be used for the construction of a net and boat manufacturing and repair unit, and three power net washing beds.

Mr Pullar said on Monday he was astounded at "this baseless attack on our success."

"The government salmon catch statistics speak for themselves," he said.

"Angling remains responsible for the large majority of exploitation and not, as the doomsayers would have it, the handful of remaining netting operations in Scotland.

"While there are those that continue to vilify netting, the statistics are incontrovertible...

"We indirectly contribute to the ASFB via our local fishery board rates, therefore it is somewhat ironic and certainly immoral that they should target us in this way.

"The ASFB should maintain its objectivity and represent all fishing methods fairly, rather than pride itself on being a front for the angling lobby.

"It is also noteworthy that of the millions of pounds given in grants from the EFF fund, little or nothing is said about the awards made to other fishing sectors.

"Sadly, we are all too aware that for some, this is about the persecution and extermination of traditional salmon netting in Scotland at any cost, rather than species conservation — sport fishing for the privileged.
Highland clearances

"Such behaviour is reminiscent of the Highland clearances and should have no place in a modern and inclusive Scotland.

"The AST comments are unsurprising as Mr Andrews is a substantial angling proprietor in the Esk district where we operate.

"Clearly he, in common with the other angling interests, stands to gain if we are forced out of business.

"We have the heritable title to fish for salmon and have been doing so for generations.

"These rights are categorically not for sale and will be passed on in future down through our family as part of the rich fabric of Scottish tradition.

"It is clearly not in our interests to over exploit stocks and we are mindful of conservation issues and have made various sensible voluntary proposals to the Esk board on this.

"Our positive record speaks for itself."

A Scottish Government spokesman said that the application from Usan Fisheries for a grant from the European Fisheries Fund was assessed against the published criteria.

The focus of this consideration was that this project would improve working conditions and health and safety.

The grants programme was open to those with an interest in eligible commercial fisheries, aquaculture and fish processing businesses.

The spokesman said, "The Scottish Government, along with local managers, keeps the status of Scotland's Atlantic Salmon stocks under review.

"We recognise the need for continuing vigilance particularly in regard to the spring component.

"There are similar trends in rivers in other parts of Scotland with no coastal salmon netting pressures."

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