Battle of drift and salmon fishing goes on

Traditional fishing methods are still used on the Tweed estuary
Traditional fishing methods are still used on the Tweed estuary

The number of salmon caught by drift and beach nets last year has prompted calls for both methods to end before the official closure date of 2022.

Tensions between salmon angling beat proprietors on the River Tweed catchment and fishermen in north-east England using traditional drift net fishing methods continue, with riverside landowners putting pressure on the UK Government to bring foward the complete removal of drift net licences and beach netting on the Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire coasts.

In 2012, UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon announced the closure of the drift net fishery in 2022, with the beach nets being gradually phased out.

The annual autumn run of returning salmon is gaining momentum on the Tweed, and Coldstream’s Andrew Douglas Home, a former chairman of the River Tweed Commissioners, has described as “staggering” the 15,989 salmon taken by north-east nets in 2015.

“These 15,989 salmon, almost all killed, are caught by just 12 drift nets and 49 beach nets at a time when the east coast Scottish rivers, which produce most of these fish, had another very poor year, if not quite as bad as 2014,” wrote Mr Douglas Home in his weekly Tweed Beats blog.

“By contrast, Tweed rods caught 8,091 salmon in 2015 and killed just 1,651 of those caught.

“The drift nets are being phased out already, but it needs to be quicker, and the beach nets, which also predate on mixed stocks, need to go too.”

However, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations continues to fight on behalf of drift net fishermen.

In a recent letter to Fishing News, Ned Clark, chairman of its north-east committee, wrote: “There is something uniquely mean-spirited and vindictive about the campaign by one of the richest power blocs in the country to extinguish small-scale net fishery for salmon and trout in the north east of England.”