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MINUTES OF ESK DISTRICT SALMON FISHERIES BOARD PUBLIC MEETING 3rd December 2015 FINAVON HOTEL 6.30PM

 

APOLOGIES:

B Balfour, and R. Cook

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION:

The Chairman of the Esk Board (Malcolm Taylor) welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained that this was the second 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 2nd November and all Proprietors had been informed in writing. Copies of the Annual Report were available at the meeting.

MINUTES OF THE PUBLIC MEETING 2014: These were approved.

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT:

The Chairman summarised his report highlighting the work involved in the Wild Fisheries Review (WFR) and its importance. He urged all those interested in the future of our rivers to respond to all the Government Consultations. The newly formed Inverbervie Angling Association was welcomed and thanked for their work on the lower Bervie. The Bailiffs and Clerk were thanked for their commitment to work and improvement of the rivers noting the number of university students who had become involved in local research projects through the work of the Trust.

The publication of the South Esk Report, the report on fish counters and the provision of Logie Counter data were all behind and it was hoped that this could be addressed by MSS as soon as possible.

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. Function of Esk Salmon Management; This was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Esk Board and formed to effect the purchase of salmon nettings Montrose Bay.

  2. Future of the Esk Board: This will be covered in the presentation by Dr. Alan Wells, however it was noted that the Triennial Elections would be held on the 21st January in Finavon Hotel at 6.30pm. A new Board will be formed and operate under the current legislation until such time as the WFR is enacted.

  3. Consultation on Catch and Release; The majority of Proprietors while recognising the importance of such conservation measures favoured a voluntary approach as opposed to statutory. Within the District each river can be considered separately according to the state of its fish stocks. For example it was recognised that despite a decline in stocks as evidence by the Logie counter on the North Esk, stocks remained in general healthy. In this respect the validity of the continued ban on the use of prawns was raised. A cautionary approach to exploitation was advised.

  4. Purchase of the Nab Nets (North Esk): Discussions with the owner were continuing, however there was a considerable difference in respective valuations between the purchaser and seller.

  5. Morphie Dyke: The application for a CAR Licence and Planning Permission had been submitted but it was likely that the plans would only be implemented if the free and safe passage of salmon and sea trout were threatened by further deterioration of the structure.

WILD FISHERIES REFORM - DR. ALAN WELLS SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Salmon legislation predated legislation such as the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive. Government had decided that fisheries legislation required a major review inorder to ensure compliance with not only new legislation but also to maximise the socio-economic values of Scottish Freshwater Fisheries. This required an all-species approach balancing both local and national objectives. There were important financial implications with the inclusion of all-species and commercially viable fisheries.

Work is progressing towards the publication of a draft containing some of the provisions for a future bill. This will be available for consultation in the New Year but would not go forward to parliament at this stage.

The proposals focus on an amalgamation of Boards and Trusts into a reduced number of Fishery Management Organisations (FMOs) to cover the whole of Scotland. The Scottish Government intend to invite applications to form FMOs from organisations who can demonstrate sufficient capacity, capability, finance and the ability to engage with all stakeholders. Successful applicants would be granted “Approved Body Status” and given sufficient powers to undertake effective fishery management in their area.

A national unit would be created to provide a national strategy/plan and coordination between all FMOs, and such other organisations whose remit impinges on fisheries management e.g. SEPA, SNH and MSS. Duplication of effort would be avoided.

Adequate financing of FMOs is critical to their success and this is still under discussion in the Stakeholder’s Reference Group.

Enforcement remains an important function of FMOs and to this end powers of Water Bailiffs will be reviewed, although no major changes are anticipated. The appointment of Fishery Wardens to support the work of Bailiffs is under consideration. The range of offences will be extended to include all-species as well as the ability to convict on the evidence of a single witness.

The next steps are:

  • Publication of the analysis of the first consultation

  • Consult on draft provisions published in early 2016

  • Publication of the Draft Bill in the autumn of 2016 at the earliest

  • Bill enacted at the earliest in the summer of 2017 with an allowance for a transitional period, thus the formation of the first FMO is not envisaged until 2018

Discussion:

Representation: the importance of extending representation compared to the current legislation was stressed. This could only benefit the effectiveness of FMOs. The eventual structure might be two-tier with a wide stakeholder (membership) group from which a small management board is formed.

Funding: This is still under consideration recognising that the current system based on fishery assessments varies from 26p to £2.44 with an average of 94p. Funds could be supplemented by a modest rod licence which would support angling development. It was noted that initial resistance to such a proposal was declining provided the cost was low. In addition it was stressed that District Assessors did confer to ensure fairness in valuation not only between netting and angling but nationally. It was stated that if FMO costs were too high this would in turn deter angling as proprietors letting beats would have to recover costs. The Government was fully aware of this issue and will ensure that the structure and staffing of FMOs is commensurate with the area’s fishery management requirements. No stipulations on staffing will be made by Government.

Status of sea trout: It was confirmed that the current proposals only applied to Atlantic Salmon thus netsmen could continue to fish for sea trout. Government hoped to respond to the recent consultation within the next few weeks.

River Categorisation: It was noted that SAC rivers were often split between categories 2and 3 – e.g South Esk. The Government will ensure that legislation is in place for 2016 noting that the categorisation of rivers will continue to be appraised and refined as more data is collected. It was noted that the Lunan Water had not been classified.

International Examples of Good Practice: This had been investigated by Andrew Thin but a unique issue in Scotland was the fact that salmon fishing was a heritable right unlike most other countries. The importance of healthy fish stocks as a precursor to any exploitation was stressed.

Conservation Measures: Currently there was a statutory ban on killing salmon up to and including the 30th April. Thereafter the Board had advocated voluntary restraint to protect early-running salmon stocks up to the 15th June. Similar restraint was advocated for sea trout. It was noted that the Bervie was proposed to be a Category 3 river and if such a designation was sustained then no salmon could be killed. Government advised that the conservation plans required under Category 2 and 3 rivers were to inform the Government of the issues and the current initiatives to address these within the catchment.

ESK RIVERS & FISHERY TRUST:

The Chairman of the Trust, Tom Sampson, summarised the progress of the Trust noting that it was on good health and fully capable of forming an effective FMO with the Board. It had a good track record of delivering projects but a concern for the future was the encouragement of new entrants into angling to ensure the optimum socio-economic potential of the area. This was an important aspect for the future and is fully endorsed in the Wild Fisheries Reform. Finally the Chairman asked for any project ideas and in particular any work which was not being undertaken.

 

The Meeting closed with a vote of thanks for Dr Alan Wells and Malcolm Taylor.