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Salmon Conservation Dealt Major Blow By EU

UK - In a press release issued jointly with the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, the Salmon & Trout Association, RAFTS and Fish Legal, the AST has criticised last week's announcement of a 100,000 EU grant to Scotlands biggest salmon netting concern in order to make it more efficient at catching fish.

Usan Fisheries, based south of Montrose, is a mixed-stock coastal salmon fishery, indiscriminately exploiting fish destined for numerous rivers on Scotlands east coast including three Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for salmon.

Both the EU and Scotland (through the EU) are signatories to the NASCO Convention which stresses that salmon fisheries should only target stocks which are at full reproductive capacity. The mixed-stock nature of the Usan operation means that by definition the viability of the individual stocks being exploited is unknown. The Scottish Government is on (recent) record as saying that it recognises the advice from NASCO/ICES that fisheries on mixed stocks, either in coastal or distant waters, pose particular difficulties for management. It is also relevant that the nearest river to Usans nets is the South Esk which is a SAC for Atlantic salmon under the EUs Habitats Directive. The EU and the Scottish Government are legally obliged to protect the integrity of SACs.

Alan Williams, new Chairman of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), commented: 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.

Tony Andrews, Chief Executive of the AST), added: populations of early running salmon in all three affected SAC rivers Tay, Dee and South Esk - are not as abundant as they were only thirty years ago. In the South Esk in particular the spring salmon population, which enters the river before 31st May, is below full productive capacity. The ASTs position is that uncertainty on the viability of stocks in these three rivers, from which the Usan mixed stocks fishery kills large numbers of salmon, dictates the necessity of applying the precautionary measure of closing this net fishery with immediate effect.

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

the Fish Site Editor

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