Salmon fishing on the Tweed

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

Fresh concerns have been raised about the potential loss of net salmon fishing on the River Tweed at Berwick.

The UK Government is proposing to close all drift-net salmon fisheries in 2018 and stop the take of salmon from the majority of the remaining net fisheries by 2019.

The Gardo fishery by Berwick’s Old Bridge, operated by the River Tweed Wild Salmon Fishing Company under lease from Berwick Harbour Commission, is the only remaining netting station on the lower reaches of the Tweed.

Local resident Brian Darling called on Berwick Regeneration Commission (BRC) to help protect a part of the town’s history dating back over 1,000 years.

“The visual spectacle has to be maintained for tourism,” he said at last week’s meeting.

Fellow resident Ian Dods added: “The fish are being caught out in the Atlantic. I think they are using existing river netting stations as scapegoats. It is part of Berwick’s history and I think it should be protected.”

Councillor Georgina Hill said she would take up the concerns at the next meeting of the River Tweed Commissioners.

Julien Lake, chief executive of Berwick Community Trust, invited the BRC to make contact with Scottish Borders Council. “Tweed Commissioners are being advised by their scientific officer that there is an adequate population of fish in the river. He is correct.

“He does, however, speak as an ecologist so when he talks about there being enough fish he is talking about adequate numbers to sustain the population, not adequate numbers to sustain a fishing industry of any type, whether that be in Berwick with nets or in Kelso with line.

“Some of the riparian owners are reducing the number of ghillies they employ. There is a risk of the wider Borders economy and thus Berwick being impacted by declining fishing on the Tweed, greater than just any legislative changes.”

Earlier this year the Tweed Foundation chairman Douglas Dobie said: “We have invested in excess of £1.5m over the last 30 years in buying out netting interests both within the district and as part of the initial buy-out of the North East Drift Net licences. All our past efforts will in some way have contributed to the recent decision by the Environment Agency to extinguish the remaining North East Drift Nets in 2018, and limit on-shore activity in the same area.”