Wild Fisheries Reform

Current Situation

Following the recent announcement by Roseanna Cunningham which significantly reduced the ambition of the wild fisheries reform process, Fisheries Management Scotland are reassessing our priorities in relation to Wild Fisheries Reform.

Fisheries Management Scotland has played, and will continue to play, a central role in the Wild Fisheries Reform program. Our focus is on:

  • Ensuring that Scotland maintains and builds upon its world class fisheries. Central to this is a need to encourage and develop participation in angling for all ages.
  • Prioritising those elements of the reform process that offer the greatest benefits to fisheries management. Ideally the re-focused reform process will result in a system through which local management is empowered and supported to achieve the best outcomes for fish and fisheries.

Fisheries Management Scotland is represented on the Stakeholder Reference Group and the following working groups:

History

The Wild Fisheries Reform Agenda dates back to the 2011 SNP manifesto commitment:

We will support and protect our famous and valuable salmon and freshwater fisheries. We will modernise the management structures and continue investing in the Strategic Framework for Scottish Freshwater Fisheries.”

The first stage of this process was to amend the good governance requirements on District Salmon Fishery Boards via the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013.

In January 2014, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced that a Wild Fisheries Review would be undertaken during 2014. The aims of the review were to:

  • develop and promote a modern, evidence-based management system for wild fisheries fit for purpose in the 21st century, and capable of responding to the changing environment;
  • manage, conserve and develop our wild fisheries to maximise the sustainable benefit of Scotland’s wild fish resources to the country as a whole and particularly to rural areas

The Review panel, chaired by Andrew Thin (former Chair of SNH), included Jane Hope and Michelle Francis, and was supported by a Technical Advisory Group drawn from Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Institute of Fisheries Management. The remit and scope can be viewed here.

The report and recommendations of the Wild Fisheries Review Panel were published on 8th October 2014 and made 53 recommendations for change.

In 2015 Alan Wells, then Policy and Planning Director at ASFB, was seconded to the Scottish Government Wild Fisheries Reform Team to help inform the WFR Programme. Later that year the Scottish Government published a consultation on the fundamental management principles to guide development and design of a reformed system of Fishery Management, and to seek views on broad options for taking forward the main themes identified in the Wild Fisheries Review report. The consultation closed in August 2015 and the consultation analysis has been published.

A Stakeholder Reference Group, which included ASFB and RAFTS, was established to provide further input to the process. In parallel with the WFR process, ASFB and RAFTS established a Joint Working Group to help develop ideas and identify information requirements needed to inform the decision making process within both organisations.

Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, launched a consultation paper on Draft provisions for a Wild Fisheries (Scotland) Bill and draft Wild Fisheries Strategy on 8 February 2016. The consultation closed in May 2016.

The 2016 SNP manifesto made the following commitment:

We will introduce a Wild Fisheries Bill to modernise structures and enable better national and local management of wild fisheries and establish the foundations for a more secure and sustainable future for this vital sector.”

During 2016 the Scottish Government established a further seven working groups to inform and develop specific aspects of the reform process. Fisheries Management Scotland and our members contribute to all of these working groups.

In February 2017, the Scottish Government ruled out proposals to introduce rod licences, a new wild fisheries levy and the criminalisation of freshwater fishing without written permission. In addition, proposals to overhaul the structure and remit of District Salmon Fishery Boards, were also ruled out.