The River Tweed Commission (RTC) is a special case and should not be sacrificed in a major overhaul of Scotland’s wild fisheries.
That was is the emphatic and unanimous message which will be sent to the Scottish Government following a crunch meeting of the body which has managed the renowned catchment on both sides of the border for over 200 years.
“It was a very positive meeting,” said RTC clerk Nick Yonge after last week’s gathering in Kelso.
The summit had been called to respond to the consultation launched last month by Scottish environment minister Dr Aileen McLeod MSP.
Proposals for reform, based on the findings of an independent review group, include the replacement of all existing boards in Scotland by new Fishery Management Organisations (FMOs), funded by a national levy.
“The commissioners actually agreed there needs to be new fishery management structures in the rest of Scotland, but were equally clear that the Tweed fishery, which contributes £18m to the local economy and supports almost 500 jobs, must not be compromised in any way,” said Mr Yonge.
Summarising the RTC’s formal response to the consultation, Mr Yonge told the Berwickshire News: “They also firmly believe that the RTC itself meets the stated requirement of FMOs, with the important distinction that separate Tweed legislation already covers both the Scottish and English parts of the Tweed district.
“The RTC is already, and always has been, quite different from other fishery boards in Scotland in many ways. Most importantly, it is not formed by a grouping of fishery proprietors as other boards are, but rather by an Order of Parliament with the majority of its commissioners being appointed by two local government authorities.
“That Order can only be changed by the agreement of both the Scottish and English parliaments. The legislation, being cross-border, allows the RTC, which is entirely self-financing to collect revenues from fisheries in both nations for managing all the Tweed fisheries.
“Tweed is different in many other ways, but notably, the RTC is responsible for all species of fish – not just salmon – and has special arrangements for the stocking of all fish species. It also has powers of law enforcement and prosecution in both England and Scotland and wide-ranging authority for fisheries regulation.
“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, contributing our knowledge and experience towards the restructuring of fisheries management in the rest of Scotland.”
The RTC currently has 81 commissioners, comprising 43 appointed by Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council, including representatives of local angling clubs, and 38 appointed by salmon fishery proprietors.