River Tweed Commission defends its role

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THE group which regulates fisheries on the River Tweed has responded to proposed changes by insisting that its method of operation should remain unaltered.

The River Tweed Commission says there are “many positive proposals” for fisheries management

in the Scottish government aquaculture and fisheries bill which aims to ensure that farmland and fisheries are managed effectively. However, there are also many measures that it does not support.

Opinions have been sought during a review of the role of district salmon fishery boards. Although the River Tweed Commission is not a fishery board, it is considered to be the equivalent of one. Under existing legislation, it is currently charged with the general preservation and increase of salmon, sea trout, trout and other freshwater fish in the River Tweed and its Tributaries, and in particular with the regulation of fisheries, the removal of nuisances and obstructions and the prevention of illegal fishing.

The area of jurisdiction extends eight kilometres out to sea and includes the coastline between Cockburnspath and Holy Island.

Among suggested inclusions in the new bill are: a specific duty on boards to act fairly and transparently; a code of good practice for wild salmon and freshwater fisheries; giving Scottish Ministers the power to change salmon district annual close time orders; Scottish Ministers taking salmon conservation measures into their own hands; statutory provision of mediation and dispute resolution of conservation and management matters; a legal requirement to provide data for rod fisheries; and Scottish Ministers being given the powers to recall, restrict or exclude the jurisdiction of boards in relation to fish introductions in certain circumstances.

Responding to the proposals the River Tweed Commissioners replied: “The River Tweed Commission is unique and does not see the need for any change in its own structure and method of operation. It has the support of and fully represents the local community through the composition of its commissioners.

“Generally we welcome the proposed bill, which contains many positive proposals for fisheries management in Scotland, although we understand some may not apply to the Tweed District.”

One of the changes the RTC does not support is the addition of a specific duty to act fairly and transparently.

It argues that fairness is best achieved through a non-statutory code of conduct, and that as a body it already acts openly. It says the board is “unusually representative”, with local authority, angling club proprietors and other interests all included.

The RTC also feels it should be involved in decisions made about changing close times for fishing and conservation measures.

Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat List MSP and rural affairs committee member, said: “There is a severe lack of detail over what the Scottish government is actually proposing for the future of fishery boards.

“Crucial to the success of the healthy freshwater fishery on the Tweed is the local management role of the River Tweed Commissioner who work closely with the Tweed Forum and others on the sustainable use of the river.

“Key to that success is having adequate resources as well as local knowledge and decision making powers. Any moves to restructure fishery boards must not jeopardise that.”