An Alness 'Springer'

04 February 2017Rod Licencing U-turn

Wild Fisheries – Protecting the Rights of Anglers

The Scottish Government issued a news release yesterday relating to Wild Fisheries Reform:

Proposals to introduce rod licences and a new wild fisheries levy in Scotland will no longer be taken forward. In addition proposals to overhaul the restructure and remit of District Salmon Fishery Boards will not go-ahead, instead Scottish Government will encourage the piloting of voluntary board merges.

Full news release here.

05 September 2016Wild Fisheries Reform

Wild Fisheries Reform – 2017 Conservation Status

The Scottish Government has just published “Salmon Conservation Regulations September 2016”, which allocates a conservation status for all salmon rivers in Scotland for the 2017 season. There have been a number of improvements in the process used to assess conservation status, which now considers additional information to the previous process which was based solely on catch data. The new process includes a number of developments including:

For the most part, the regulations are now based on individual rivers rather than fisheries district, and a total of 167 areas have been categorised.

Fish counter data from Marine Scotland, Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern Electricity has been used to estimate the number of salmon entering rivers in each month.

Flow data from SEPA has been used in consideration of the effects of flow on rod catches.

Estimation of egg deposition has been improved by taking into account refined models for salmon population characteristics such as age, size, proportion female and egg content.

2017 Conservation Status – Local Rivers
As a result of the new process the conservation status for the River Alness has been assessed as Grade 1 which means that “Exploitation is sustainable and therefore no additional management action is currently required”.

Elsewhere in the Cromarty Firth, the River Conon and River Glass were also both assessed as Grade 1, the Balnagown River as Grade 3, meaning “Exploitation is unsustainable and mandatory catch and release (all methods) for 1 year will be required”.

The River Beauly has been upgraded to Grade 2, while the River Ness remains Grade 3. All of the Kyle of Sutherland rivers (Carron, Shin, Cassley & Oykel) are now Grade 1.

More information and full documents are available for download at

15 March 2016Wild Fisheries Reform

Wild Fisheries Reform and Forthcoming Legislation

Wild Fisheries Review
Through 2014 and 2015, the Scottish Government has progressed a Wild Fisheries Review, which has amongst its remits looked at the challenges and opportunities facing Scotland’s wild fisheries, and how Scotland’s natural fish and fisheries resources should be sustainably managed, conserved and developed.

In February 2016, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, launched a consultation paper on Draft provisions for a Wild Fisheries (Scotland) Bill/Draft Wild Fisheries Strategy: a consultation paper, 1.3 MB (PDF document). The consultation will close on 2 May 2016.

Wild Fisheries Reform
One outcome from the review, is that Marine Scotland is now progressing with a program of Wild Fisheries Reform, including a package of Conservation Regulations effective from 1st April 2016.

These Regulations categorise fishing districts/rivers in relation to their conservation status, with accompanying guidance and/or regulation. All Scottish rivers/districts have been allocated to one of the following three grades each with their own recommended management actions.

Grade 1 - in these rivers, exploitation is considered sustainable and not additional management action is required.

Grade 2 – management action is necessary to reduce exploitation; mandatory catch and release is not required in the first instance, but this will be reviewed annually.

Grade 3 – exploitation is unsustainable and mandatory catch and release for one year is required.


The River Alness and Conon have been designated as Grade 2, so all Alness salmon fishery owners/clubs have a responsibility to reduce exploitation throughout the river.

Conservation Status
The idea behind the Conservation Status is to determine whether the number of salmon spawning is above a critical threshold level. This approach seeks to compare actual levels of spawning with the minimum acceptable (target) levels of spawning. The target level is called the ‘conservation limit’. Actual spawning levels are expressed in terms of egg deposition and rely on estimation of numbers of returning adult salmon from counters and catches. The conservation status is then defined by estimating the probability of meeting the egg target.

Although the architects of the Wild Fisheries Review have stated their desire for sustainable management and conservation of wild salmon and salmon fishery resources based on good science, the designated conservation status seems to have been derived entirely from catch data, with no regard to other data available or external factors.

Conservation Status & the River Alness
While we whole heartedly support salmon conservation and the aims of the Wild Fisheries Reform, we believe the conservation status based solely on catch returns is inherently flawed and unscientific, failing to take into account other available evidence such as parr/smolt counts, fish counter data, assessment of stocks by fishery scientists and managers, and external factors such as weather/river conditions, timing of salmon runs, fishing effort etc. Nevertheless, it seems that despite other evidence, our conservation status for the foreseeable future will be determined entirely by our catch returns.

From 2017 there will be a requirement for a Conservation Plan produced by the District Salmon Fishery Board in consultation with Marine Scotland. In the interim we have been given permission for this season to continue with regulations based on the Cromarty Firth Fishery Board Conservation Policy.