Police Scotland wildlife officers are encouraging the public to be aware of fish poaching and report any suspicious activity or concerns as new figures reveal that numbers of Atlantic salmon in particular have reached a critical level.
Recently published official Scottish Government catch statistics show that 35,693 Atlantic salmon and 12,636 sea trout were caught in 2021, which are the lowest catches since records began in 1952. They follow years of sustained declines in salmon numbers, affecting rivers across the country.
Wildlife and Environmental Crime Officer, Detective Constable Ben Pacholek, said: “There is a perception that fish poaching is not a serious crime and that ‘taking one for the pot’ does no harm. However, fish poaching is a criminal offence and stocks are protected by law.
“As well as carrying out joint patrols with water bailiffs to deter fish poaching and other offences in and around rivers, lochs and the coastline, officers work closely with Fisheries Management Scotland and other partners, including the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Priority Delivery Group for Poaching in Scotland.
Brian Davidson, Director of Communications and Administration at Fisheries Management Scotland said: “It is clear that populations of Atlantic salmon are now at crisis point. The latest figures underline just how grave the situation has become. Fish poaching is a widespread and highly damaging wildlife crime activity.