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Minutes Of Esk District Salmon Fisheries Board Public Meeting 19th November 2014

 

Minutes Of Esk District Salmon Fisheries Board Public Meeting

19th November 2014 Finavon Hotel 6.30pm

 

ATTENDANCE:

H. C. Adamson, K. Allison, B. Anderson, S. Anderson, B. Balfour, M. Bilsby, S. Buchan, K. Craig, S. Eassie, C. Gow, E. Greig, M. Halliday, R. Hampton, L. Hawkins, M. Howitt, I. Laird, D. MacDonald, J. MacDougall, I. MacMaster, D. Pullar, S. Robertson. E. Russell., P. Salmond, T. Sampson, D. Swanston, M. Taylor, and J. Wood.

APOLOGIES:

R. Gledson, D. Laird, and M Ogg.

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION:

The Chairman of the Esk Board (Malcolm Taylor) welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained that this was the first Public Meeting held by the Board under the 2013 Act. The Meeting’s purpose was to ensure an opportunity for members of the Public to question any aspect of the Board’s work and to raise any issues relevant to the management of the resource. The Meeting had been published on the Esk Board’s web site from the 15th October and all Proprietors had been informed in writing. Copies of the Annual Report were available at the meeting as well as information on the River Watch Scheme to protect Freshwater Pearl Mussels as part of the Pearls in Peril LIFE Project.

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT:

The Chairman summarised his report highlighting the work involved in the Wild Fisheries Review (WFR) and Morphie Dyke.

WFR: The Board broadly welcomed the WRF and awaited the Minister’s views.

Reference was also made to the poor season and the hope that 2015 might show an improvement.

He then invited comments and questions on the Annual Report of the Esk Board and the accounts stating that both had been approved by the Board.

ANNUAL REPORT:

There were no questions

ANNUAL ACCOUNTS:

There were no questions.

ISSUES RAISED BY THE PUBLIC:

  1. Morphie Dyke: The Board was obliged to maintain the free and safe passage of salmon and after commissioning an engineering appraisal of the options for dealing with the structure had adopted a minimum policy compliaint with statutory obligations. However, recognising that the structure was deteriorating, plans to restore the river flow centrally and to stabilised both exposed ends of the remaining structure would be developed. This would include obtaining a CAR Licence from SEPA. Ownership was however an issue which could not be as yet resolved.

 

The meeting welcomed the application for a CAR Licence and suggested that this was opportunity to stabilise the structure once and for all. A central flow and restoration of the natural width of the river would be achieved by the removal of the fish pass, stabilising the breach at either end and removal of the metal piles. It was important to be proactive and not allow the collapse of the entire structure which would undoubtedly pose problems for the migration of salmon. An important consideration for the Board was the avoidance of long-term liability for the structure. Never the less the meeting stressed that the Board were likely to be the only organisation with the ability to maintain the passage of salmon and address the long standing problems posed by Morphie Dyke.

 

  1. Catch-and- Release Policy: The Chairman intimated that the Board has discussed this issue in relation to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on a National Strategy for the Conservation of Spring Salmon. The Board would be writing to all proprietors to ensure that no salmon would be killed before the middle of June which was similar to regulations in England. Concerns were raised in connection with the need to extend protection of these fish into the autumn. Other views expressed concern about nets killing salmon from the 1st April and in the case of the South Esk the 1st May. A level playing field was considered vital. The meeting stressed the importance of proprietors complying with the Board’s proposal and wished to see catch-and-release incorporated into the written permission to fish. As regards the commencement of netting, the Board will discuss this with the netting interests. The issue of quotas was raised and it was pointed out that this was recommended in the WFR in conjunction with a license being required to kill any salmon. There was considerable support for the adoption of a total catch-and-release policy. However, there was a need for netting to cooperate with a reduction in harvesting. Representatives from the Dee Board stated that their voluntary policy was enshrined in the management of the river and if relaxed would result in significant protest. The policy had no effect on letting beats. Stonehaven Angling Club endorsed the policy on the Dee. There was a view that total catch-and-release would obtain greater support if there was significant restraint from netting interests. Netting interests took the view that if this were to happen, there would be a massive increase in seal predation. Anglers countered that if they adopted a policy to kill their total catch it could reduce stocks to a level where netting was not viable.

 

It was clear from the Meeting that anglers anticipated and would support a total-catch-and-release policy but a reduced net catch was a vital element of the overall conservation policy.

 

ESK RIVERS & FISHERY TRUST:

The Chairman of the Trust, Tom Sampson, summarised the progress of the Trust in its first five years. Over £400,000 of new money had been invested in the rivers and the current trend in projects was a move towards a catchment scale approach. The success of the restoration of the Rottal Burn and its use as a demonstration site for the recent Sharing Good Practice event organised by the Rivers Restoration Group of the UK was testimony to the importance of the Trust’s work. The future focus is on larger projects and in particular trying to mediate the effects of climate change through contour tree planting in Glen Clova as the increasing prevalence of short-lived exceptional high flow events was a major threat to the integrity of river morphology and survival of salmon redds. Although the North Esk was in reasonable condition, the Trust would welcome suggestions for projects in this catchment.

 

However, despite the work of the Trust there has not been an increase of salmon in our rivers. This is largely due to events outwith our control in the marine environment. It is therefore considered vital that the work of the Trust continues to expand to ensure smolt production is optimal for all our rivers. In this connection reference was made to the important work of smolt shepherding organised by Martin Stansfeld in the lower North Esk.

 

South Esk Counter: A counter for the South Esk was also under review in conjuction with the current government project aimed at increasing the number of strategic counters throughout Scotland. Instead of installing a counter at immediately, it was considered that the results of this study would provide vital guidance. However a meeting is being organised with Government in the hope of accelerating matters particularly as there was a significant financial contribution available from the Trust.

Bervie-Japanese Knotweed: The work of the Trust in almost eliminating Japanese Knotweed was gratefully acknowledged.

 

OPEN SESSION:

The Chairman invited comments and questions from the floor.

  1. The issue of pools on the South Esk becoming filled with silt. It was hoped that in view of the considerable progress with SEPA and farmers on the South Esk achieving compliance with the GBRs that this might improve in the longer term. In addition contour planting will reduce the river’s energy and in turn reduce erosion and sediment transport. It was important to inform the Trust of these concerns with details of the location and extent of the problems

  2. Major changes were noted in the West Water. The Trust was aware of this and if funds could be identified to accelerate compliance with GBRs this might improve the sub catchment in the medium term. The Trust was learning from its catchment approach to the study of river processes in the Lunan and Bervie catchments

 There were no further issues raised and the Chairman thanked everyone for their contributions and stated that a similar meeting would be held next year. The meeting was closed with a vote of thanks to the Chairman.