The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) is advocating that a new right of pre-emption on the sale of any salmon netting rights – in favour of the relevant local District Salmon Fishery Board – be included in the forthcoming Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill. The relevance of such a pre-emptive right has been highlighted by the recent acquisition by a major Scottish netting company of several dormant or lightly-fished netting stations in the north and north east of Scotland, signalling a significant increase in the commercial exploitation of salmon.
Dr Alan Wells, Policy and Planning Director for ASFB, explained: “Any increase in coastal salmon netting constitutes a significant threat to sound salmon management. The recent purchase of previously dormant or lightly fished netting stations in Caithness, Easter Ross and Aberdeenshire raises the prospect of an increase in netting across Scotland. There are still many inactive netting stations in Scotland, for which the netting rights still exist. Local Fishery Boards are often keen to acquire any netting stations that are being sold in order to mothball them in the interests of conservation”.
Dr Wells continued: “However there are limitations to what Fishery Boards or other conservation organisations can do to prevent an increase in netting activity. Net fisheries are private heritable rights which can be bought and sold privately in the same way as rod fisheries or indeed any other property. We believe that, when a netting station is put up for sale or is to be leased to a third party, the relevant Fishery Board or indeed a local angling club should, in the interests of salmon conservation, have a statutory pre-emptive right to purchase (or lease) that netting operation on the terms agreed before any proposed sale (or lease) can proceed. Such a mechanism would help to prevent an increase in fishing effort, in line with our international commitments through the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation.”
Dr Wells added: “The ASFB response to the Consultation on the forthcoming Fisheries Bill included constructive proposals on pre-emptive rights on transfers of netting stations. Without a change in the law Fishery Boards are powerless, as highlighted by recent events, to prevent significant additional exploitation of salmon runs. Scotland’s rod fisheries have taken conservation to heart in recent years. According to the preliminary official statistics for 2011, anglers released back into the water 73 % of all salmon caught and 91 % of the fragile spring stock component. It sends out all the wrong signals, both nationally and internationally, if there is an expansion in netting activity and the commercial exploitation of salmon stocks in Scotland.”
ASFB News Release (11 May 2012) (pdf)