Scotland unveils new laws to protect wild salmon

Changes to the laws that regulate the killing of wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland have been announced by the country’s Environment Minister, Aileen McLeod, in order to protect declining populations.

Following consultations, the new regulations coming into force on 1 April that cover the whole of Scotland include a three-year ban on killing fish beyond estuary limits and strict controls on the number that can be taken from inland waters, with targets to be set annually based on the health of stocks in particular rivers. Furthermore, all fisheries districts will require a conservation plan, regardless of the health of local populations.

“Our salmon is a valuable and important asset which we must protect and balance conserving stocks with the interests of those who fish for salmon,” said McLeod. “It is absolutely right that we take action now to protect our salmon stocks for the future. The changes have been subject to extensive consultation and we have listened and made some changes to the district classifications as a result of all the feedback we have received.

“I am confident we now have the right package of measures, including prohibitions on killing out-with estuary limits, inland waters being managed by conservation status and mandatory conservation plans, to ensure wild salmon have a sustainable future in our waters.”

The new rules, which were previously known as the “kill license,” have been well received by fisheries managers.

“I welcome [the] announcement from the minister, which offers confidence that the Scottish Government is truly committed to preserving our wild salmon populations and is prepared to make what are necessary but difficult decisions. This is the right thing to do,” said Alister Jack, chair of the River Annan Trust and District Salmon Fishery Board.

“What is now important is that we come together as a sector, both angler and netsmen alike, to respond to the challenges that the new measures bring and use the opportunity afforded by the forthcoming consultation on a draft Wild Fisheries Bill, to ensure a prosperous and brighter future for our fisheries,” he said.

Alasdair Laing, chairman of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, said, “Most river systems already have voluntary conservation measures in place which would need only modest adjustment to comply with the new regulation. The conservation status principle will help identify areas where specific management challenges existed while offering the flexibility for improvements to be recognized.”

The Scottish Government confirmed it will write to all those who have expressed an interest in this area to outline the package of measures and to work with those who may be affected.