Red alert over spring salmon

pics: Nick Drainey'Walk of the week.'River Tweed, Coldstream.
pics: Nick Drainey'Walk of the week.'River Tweed, Coldstream.

Protecting early running spring salmon is now a matter of urgency, the Marine Conservation Society (MSC) having placed Atlantic salmon on its list of fish in danger.

It would seem that environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse’s concerns over wild salmon, expressed only a fortnight ago, were well founded,

Mr Wheelhouse indicated that it was the Scottish Government’s intention to push through statutory conservation measures from 2015, requiring mandatory catch and release on Scottish rivers until April 1, together with a delay in the start of the net fishing season. The conservation measures would be for an initial five-year period at which point they would be reviewed.

The River Tweed Commission introduced its own five-year spring salmon conservation measures in 2011 – anglers must return all salmon caught to the end of June, unharmed, to the water. But the measures are only operated by river anglers and not those catching the fish on the coast.

This week the MCS advised the public that wild-caught Atlantic salmon are “red rated” on its sustainable online seafood guide (www.fishonline.org) and urged people not to eat them.

According to the MCS, the number of English and Welsh rivers assessed as meeting their conservation targets in 2013 was 30 per cent, compared to 53 per cent the previous year.

And in Scotland the society blames the lack of appropriate management measures to prevent overfishing of salmon from rivers where stocks are low

MCS fisheries officer Bernadette Clarke said: “Unlike most other members of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), Scotland has not yet set conservation limits for its salmon rivers, and has almost no management regime in place to prevent an increase in coastal netting.”

She added: “Neither has it adequate mechanisms to limit catches.”