River Ghillies have welcomed news that Scottish Government will not switch to a mandatory catch and release policy, saying the unnecessary move would have ignored far bigger pressures facing salmon.
Scottish Government consulted on the possibility of introducing a policy which would have seen all fish caught in Scotland returned to the water as part of a regulatory approach.
The question was asked alongside a consultation on the proposed annual gradings of Scotland’s rivers for 2023, based on conservation status of the species on a river by river basis.
However, results published yesterday (Fri) showed the level of feeling that exists against mandatory catch and release with 75% rejecting the idea and only 18% of respondents backing it.
Over two thirds of respondents said they would rather see urgent action taken on other pressures facing wild salmon, principally predation (53%) and impacts on wild fish from fish farms (41%).
Furthermore, 49% said mandatory catch and release would lead to more anglers walking away from the sport at a critical time while 26% cited negative impacts on businesses reliant on angling.
In 2021, 95% of all rod caught salmon in Scotland were returned to the river, with 99% of all spring Salmon put back.
A Spokesman for The SGA Fishing Group, which represents ghillies and river workers, said:
“The consultation response was fairly emphatic. Whilst ghillies, fisheries and anglers all want to do their bit and to see accelerated action on protecting salmon, the emphasis should not be on yet more restrictions on angling which could have further damaging impacts.
“Already, Scottish rivers are returning the vast majority of fish, entirely voluntarily because of conservation-minded fisheries and anglers or because the river gradings necessitate fish being put back.
“Singling out this one aspect is wrong. Scottish Government needs to get to work fast on the bigger, more difficult issues affecting the species, not tinker at the edges with the low hanging fruit of mandatory catch and release. These difficult measures may not be popular but they are necessary.”
The SGA Fishing Group said they were amongst the 42% of respondents happy to encourage 100% catch and release voluntarily rather than through Government stipulation.