Reasons why the River Annan District Salmon Fishery Board wishes to proceed to regulating for Catch and Release in the Sea Trout Fishery in the Annan District.
The River Annan District Salmon Fishery Board published a paper on this website and sought representation on a proposal to make the release of all Sea Trout caught in its District. The Board discussed the results of the consultation at an open public Board meeting on the 23rd of October.
It was felt by a majority of 9-2 (plus 1 abstention) that the dire reduction in Sea Trout numbers in recent years meant that the Board had to act to ensure that we have the maximum number of spawning fish. The Board will therefore ask the Minister to consider making an order under section 25 of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013 to make the release of all sea trout mandatory for a period of 5 years.
The reasons for this decision were as follows:
The report on the state of the sea trout stocks on the river made disturbing reading with significant reductions in catch’s reported since 2003. Whilst there had been slumps in catches in the past none had been so deep and longstanding.
It was noted that the last ‘good period’ (based upon the catch return) was very short, 1997 – 2002 and there was concern that this was a ‘blip’ in a general downwards trend from the late 80s.
It was felt that in order to consolidate stocks we needed to, as a minimum, maximise the number of spawning fish each year and the potential increase of as much as 600,000 extra ova to the river would, over time be significant.
Whilst we understood the potential economic perils of the decision we felt that visitor numbers were more likely to decline due to a lack of fish rather than the need to return them. It was noted that the Brown Trout fishing had been catch and release on the river for a number of years and visitor numbers had actually increased as the quality of the fishing improved, despite the need to return fish.
The economic effect on the net fishery was likely to be more significant but we felt that part of this, the benefit to the common good fund, could be mitigated against (this has been dealt with via individual assurances from some members of the Board to back fill any losses incurred).
Overall the majority of the Board members felt that the consolation report was sound and the arguments compelling. The use of the rod catch tool, as recommended by the Scottish Government clearly indicated that there was a need to further reduce the exploitation of sea trout in the Annan District.
In this instance the use of the precautionary principle is sound, in other wards whilst we do not know the complete reasons why we have a slump in the sea trout population this lack of knowledge is not a reason why we should not act to reduce exploitation as overall numbers can clearly be seen to be much reduced compared to a number of years ago.
The River Annan District Salmon Fishery Board understands that this will be contentious to some but a clear majority of correspondents to the Board during the consultation period supported the policy. The River Annan used to be one of the most prolific sea trout fisheries in Scotland and it used to contribute greatly to the local economy. We believe that it can once again be a thriving fishery and 100% catch and release of these fish is just one action we are proposing along with habitat improvement, access improvements and improvements to water quality in some areas.
Annandale Estates, St Ann's
Tel: 01576 470600