Coastal Netting

What is the problem?

Mixed stocks coastal netting stations indiscriminately catch any salmon passing by, regardless of where they are heading or the strength of the population in their home rivers. They are completely non-selective, making the management of individual river stocks almost impossible. In addition, 17 rivers in Scotland are designated as Special Areas of Conservation. The random nature of mixed stock fisheries makes it extremely difficult to determine the impact of such fisheries on these important conservation sites.

Recent history of mixed stocks netting

For most of the last four decades (indeed until very recently) the extent of active net fisheries in Scotland has declined. The demise was driven from the 1970s by the advent of salmon farming and the availability of cheaper farmed fish, which had a dramatic impact wild salmon prices and thus on the commercial viability of salmon netting for wild stocks. Another factor was the decline in marine survival and the number of fish returning to our coasts. Since the millennium two distinct salmon markets have developed – a mass market for farmed salmon and a premium market for wild fish. In real terms the price of wild Scottish salmon is now far higher than it was during the heyday of netting and in the right locations salmon netting is a lucrative business. During 2012 there was a significant increase in Scottish coastal netting with existing/active stations being worked more intensively and some long-dormant stations being opened up **. There still remains a large number of inactive netting stations in Scotland.
(**Angus Woodward commented on and analysed the background in the Autumn 2012 edition of Gamefisher magazine. A pdf of this article is available here.)

What S&TCUK has achieved so far

Working closely with the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB - Scotland), Rivers & Fisheries Trusts for Scotland (RAFTS), Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fish Legal as well as international counterparts, we have.

  • Successfully lobbied for a zero net limitation order on the English North East Coast Fishery (most of the fish caught are of Scottish origin), which means that as fishermen retire from the industry, their licenses cannot be passed on, thereby effectively phasing out the fishery over time
  • Helped buy out the majority of the North East Coast Drift Net licenses in 2003
  • Lobbied through NASCO for limited subsistence high seas salmon fishing off Greenland and the Faroe Islands
  • Sat on the Scottish Government's Working Group into the remaining Mixed Stock Fisheries around the Scottish Coast
  • Lobbied Defra in England for further action to limit the number of salmon killed each year by the remaining North East Coast fishermen
  • S&TCS supported with practical and legal help the Esk District Fisheries Board's petition for a Judicial Review on the Scottish Government's decision to issue a licence to allow an extension of coastal netting into September. The action was successful and the licence revoked.
  • Backed Brechin Angling Club's 2012 formal complaint to the European Commission over the Scottish Government's failure to protect spring salmon stocks from being exploited by coastal netting in the River South Esk Special Area of Conservation.

What still needs to be done?

  • S&TCUK continues to work for the closure of all MSF fisheries for salmon (and sea trout) in Scotland
  • If Scotland continues to allow MSFs to exploit salmon, then the Greenlandic and Faroese fishermen will demand quotas to reopen their commercial salmon fisheries, catching many salmon of UK (including Scottish) origin with disastrous implications for our stocks. S&TCUK will hammer this fact home with Holyrood and Wesminster at every opportunity

Other information