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This is contained in the Draft Annual Report which has been circulated. By way of an update to the Wild Fisheries Reform, the Chairman stressed its importance and the fact that the future of the Esk District as an FMO was uncertain. However the Board and Trust would continue to stress its importance and retain its identity.

Negotiations were progressing with Mr David Smart with a view to purchasing the in-river netting rights on the North Esk. This will require additional funds to be raised through the Assessment.

The usual disease outbreak occurred on the North Esk in the Edzell area and publically displayed notices helped inform the public.

The Bailiffs and Clerk were thanked for their contributions to the work involved in managing and improving the rivers in the District.

Draft Annual Report: The report highlighted the catch returns for the District, proposals for Morphie Dyke, and the necessary sections to comply with the 2013 Fisheries Legislation. This was approved unanimously and now becomes the Report of the Esk Board for 2015 and requires to be sent to Scottish Government Ministers.

Accounts for the year ending 31ST December2015:

There were no questions from the floor and the accounts were approved.

Appointment of Auditors:

The Meeting approved the appointment of Walker Harris as auditors for the year ending 31st December 2015.

Fishery Assessment for 2016:

In view of the opportunity to purchase the North Esk in-river netting rights, the Assessment would be raised to £1.00. In view of the legislation this has to be applied to all proprietors. However, there will be a rebate of £0.50 to all proprietors with the exception of the rod interests on the North Esk. If the purchase is completed further funds will be required in 2017. However if the purchase fails to complete, excess funds will be reimbursed as appropriate. It was also pointed out that a revaluation was being undertaken and in this respect the assessment for the Morphie Syndicate had been significantly reduced in 2016 due to a material change of circumstances.


There no items of relevant business raised.

There being no further formal business the formal part of the Meeting was closed with a vote of thanks to the Chairman.

Open Session:

Science in Freshwater Fisheries Management

The Chairman welcomed Drs John Armstrong and Gordon Smith from MSS.

  • Good science underpinned sound fisheries management and to date had been achieved through the use of “Index Rivers” like the North Esk providing information on smolt production and marine survival. This information generated locally and supplemented by Fishery Trusts and the SFCC informed Government Policy, ICES and NASCO.

  • MSS’s programme included monitoring the state of salmon stocks and their conservation, licensed introductions, interaction of wild fish with aquaculture, climate change, upland water monitoring, salmon farming planning, advice concerning licensed activities e.g. predator control, and advice to Ministers.

  • Conservation Limits:

  • developing more robust models to estimate how many salmon are required to populate a river at both an area and salmon stock level

  • Calculating stock recruitment (SR) curves based on a combination of adult and juvenile stock assessment

  • Estimating the salmon population and the opportunity if any for sustainable harvesting

  • An example of research was the South Esk Report which concluded that the coastal nest were very mixed stock, spring salmon spawned in the upper catchment, and that the subcatchments in the upper half had a heathy population of juveniles. Rod effort may have declined – possible due to the decline in the in-river fishery which makes interpretation if the catch statistics more difficult.

  • The juvenile data basically was in line with SEPA’s classification under the WFD.

  • Conservation Regulations;

  • The Thin report advocated only killing under licence.

  • The Scottish Government have implemented conservation measures by grading the rivers and requiring a conservation plan to be prepared

  • The calculation of conservation limits (CLs) is based on egg deposition and wetted area to provide 3 classifications.

  • This is an ongoing process with a requirement to develop data collection including that referring to the physical habitat, chemical habitat and thermal habitat.

  • It is intended to move to a river by river classification in 2017

  • Other techniques are being developed:

  • Genetics - perhaps based on altitude layers and with further refinement to identify different salmon stocks.

  • Sex ratios based on scale DNA– interesting to note that the brain size is smaller in farmed salmon when compared to wild

  • Aquaculture Interactions

  • Investigating emigration patterns

  • Sea lice effects

  • Safe guarding smolt migration by perhaps identifying key areas which should be subject to controls for their protection

  • Index Rivers

  • The River Conon has become a new index river with pit tagging being undertaken since 1998

  • This is useful as it lends support to the transfer of data from the North Esk

  • Future cooperation with Fishery

  • A Biologists liaison group has been established with subgroups involved with counters, grilse error, juvenile assessment using e-fishing and exploitation rates

  • A species and data subgroup will be established with a remit involving predation, habitat improvements and high seas fisheries

The Chairman thanked MSS for their work and informative presentation.

The following issues were raised:

  • Developing a counter network and the interpretation of counter data was important and image recognition software was under development

  • Limited budgets result in the focus of research being inshore and interactions with aquaculture; although it is recognised that the problem with adult salmon stocks is perhaps more of a high seas issue

  • The outcome and costs of the South Esk project was questioned with a view expressed that the money would have been more productively applied to restoration of the habitat. However MSS pointed out that there were important political drivers which required good data. A further related point was that there was too much science with little physical application on the ground.

  • Coastal netting was discussed in relation to the 3-year ban. This was a period to allow further information to be gathered and is part of a reform process. In respect of in-river netting a view was expressed that this was an opportunity missed to further reduce exploitation. This was especially the case where anglers were returning the major proportion of their catch. MSS pointed out that there was still an opportunity to apply for further conservation measures if the case was fully supported by science.

  • It was suggested that the aquacultural sector should be based on triploids. However it seemed that unlike trout, triploidy was more complicated in salmon