Scottish Salmon Management
By Jock Monteith 24th December 2017
As a nation Scotland is very fortunes to have over 400 salmon rivers that all have varying salmon run timings and are of differing sizes from the smallest head water tributaries to the largest main stem rivers. Knowing roughly where and when to fish each river is half the battle for success.
Natural Cyclical Salmon Runs
In addition to the above nature is always on the move as a wild salmon knows nothing of our calendar months and nor should it. One of the River Tay salmon beats I used to work on was purchased in 1970 purely due to its big Autumn salmon run as few Spring or Summer salmon fish were caught. In the late 90's Spring & Summer salmon became the dominating run with fewer Autumn salmon being caught on the beat. These days that venue still fishes best in the Spring & Summer.
Need To Know Basis
It all really makes perfect sense and even though it often has our fishery management in a flap as they feel the right to know the answers of these naturally appearing & disappearing salmon runs and when they cannot get to the bottom of it their egos become dented and salary justification guesswork comes into play. It also seems to suit the Scottish 'sun light starved' mind to moan about things instead of backing off and realising somethings are better not known about salmon to preserve the magical unpredictable 'natural' selling point of Scottish salmon fishing. I could link you to senior Scottish salmon fishing officials talking about declining Spring salmon numbers a few years prior to a great 10 year Spring run period begun.
A Salmon Ultimately Decides
If a wild juvenile salmon enters the sea there is absolutely nothing to tell it when to stop feeding and return to the place of its birth other than its own reproductive call which we will never be able to influence and thank goodness too. With that fact in mind it is and always has been a complete lottery as to where between one and four years this 'return to fresh water call' occurs. These salmon know nothing of our graphs & discussions at salmon fishery board AGMs nor about the do good associations who pay their executives excessive salaries in the name of salmon research.
Wild Salmon Stock Duplication
Yes we all now know the effects of sea lice and pollution from the West coast Scottish fish farms and how that has subsequently shut down the entire West coast wild Atlantic salmon fishery asset. Yes we know there's also a huge seal & cormorant issue that cannot be re-balanced for various legal reasons but surely now you realise why God gave a hen salmon approx 800 eggs per body pound and not just one or two like most other creatures are rationed to.
Basic Salmon Fishery Management
If you want to naturally boost salmon stocks in any river it is no where close to rocket science. Firstly you must optimise the spawning & juvenile habitat in the river if that is required. Secondly you must protect the existing brood stock through 'catch & release' and other effective fishing & in-river stock protection measures. Thirdly, you must allow a minimum period of 5 years to see the benefits of your work. When I stuck my head above the parapet on the Tay in 2007 to play a very vocal part in securing a more effective revamped 'catch & release' policy we didn't see the additional stock benefits until 2011/2012.
The Truth For Salmon Management
If you're a district salmon fishery board that is currently or permanently caught up in confusion mode please don't be and just go to a mirror and ask yourselves the question if you've been proactive for long enough on the above pointers and what also if the theory that a salmon makes its own decisions holds any merit and could previous 'cyclical' run patterns mean this is just the way it is and always has been.
Salmon Ocean Mortality Rates
If you really believe there's a big issue at sea then fund 2 patrol vessels that utilise all the satellite & sonar data to follow & police our wild salmon from the East coast of Scotland to their feeding grounds to their return. So what if that costs £1 million pounds per year for 2 vessels to permanently patrol as that is surely small potatoes to pay for an industry that generates way over £100 million for the Scottish economy each year. The revenue to fund this is already being collected or I'm sure it could be swiftly raised through private corporate sponsorship funding if the re-appointment of existing multiple fishery board and foundation funds for less valuable projects could not be re-directed via good old human brain power 'prioritisation'.
We Need Real Entrepreneurship
What Scottish salmon fishing needs is fresh blood brought in that can deliver theses logical & do-able remedials so we're not as dependent on what nature gives us from year to year if 'catch statistics' & fancy graphs are your thing! To date, although there's a few notable exceptions we have largely been on the slow boat to China in some key areas of Scottish salmon fishery management. 'Natural' large scale wild smolt ranching, large scale habitat evaluation and remedials, in river stock protection & permanent oceanic policing protection would give Scotland the most attractive 'traditional' salmon stock abundance in the world. If these actions are too advanced for the minds of those who run the show then just enjoy the natural 'cyclical' runs of salmon that appear anyway but cut out the scare mongering before your graphs and self justification does any more harm.
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