River Tweed net fishing changes

Gardo netting station, using traditional fishing methods on the Tweed estuary
Gardo netting station, using traditional fishing methods on the Tweed estuary

A request by River Tweed Commisioners for the net salmon fishing close season to be extended looks like it will happen for the 2020 season, subject to the views of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Ministers are backing the proposal, which will see traditional net salmon fishing not able to start until June - at the moment net fishing at the Gardo station at Berwick can start in April.

However, the Tweed Commissioners are less happy about Marine Scotland’s recommendation to also restrict the fishing method of spinning to a June 1, start date.

Berwick Harbour Commission and tenants of the Gardo net fishery opposed the net fishing restrictions and a Berwick councillor on Northumberland County Council said: “It is, of course, a really disappointing proposal from the Scottish Government from the point of view of net fishing in Berwick and one that needs to be challenged.

“They have, however, at least not accepted the River Tweed Commission’s dubious and illogical case that it is only net-fishing which should be targeted to aid salmon conservation as the proposed changes to the annual close times will apply to fishing by the spinning method too.

“It will be very interesting to see how the RTC, and the vested interests contained within, react to this!”

The River Tweed Commissioners response to the restriction on spinning was: “Further discussion with Marine Scotland is necessary as the RTC cannot agree the proposed additional measures, which would restrict the anglers’ choice of fishing method by not allowing spinning before June 1.”

Marine Scotland’s Keith Main, in a letter to the RTC, said: “Ministers have concluded that there is, on balance, a strong case to amend the annual close time in order to protect and improve stocks of spring salmon on the River Tweed.

“In coming to this decision Ministers note that the conservation case submitted by the RTC sets out the detailed background to their proposal and makes the point that spring stocks have been volatile over many years. The case includes data running from the mid-1990s and this is supported by evidence from catch returns in recent years, data from the fish counter at Ettrick and detail from surveys of juvenile salmon.

“Colleagues in MSS have considered this evidence carefully, agree that there is evidence that spring stocks on the Tweed are at historically low levels and conclude that not allowing killing of salmon until later in the year would be a suitable precautionary measure to ensure that historically low numbers of salmon are not reduced further.

“Ministers have also given careful consideration to the objections received to the proposal. In particular we have considered the discussion around levels of mortality for rod-caught fish as compared to those taken in nets and of the social, economic and heritage aspects of allowing the net fishery at Tweedmouth to continue operating in the April and May period.

“In addition, Ministers are conscious that the decision to change the annual close season time will have an adverse effect on the net and coble fishery at Tweedmouth.

“While noting all these points, Ministers consider that, on balance, the need to apply a precautionary approach to the long-term protection of salmon stocks outweighs these concerns.”