Scottish Salmon Stocks
By Jock Monteith 26th November 2018
It truly amazes me that after decades of largely ineffective Scottish salmon fishing management that these fine 'God given' creatures still make it back to the Scottish rivers at all. My hat is off to the Atlantic salmon even though a good 'shake up' is clearly needed within Scottish salmon fishing.
A Time For Salmon Management Change
Our game needs a proper 'shake up' and limited fishery board operating finances must now be effectively re-prioritised or new financing strategies implemented. Logically if you want to keep getting the same results as we are seeing today then keep doing what we are doing. Or alternatively step back from the boardroom 'talking shops' and in depth mind numbing scientific 'waffle' on meaningless single fishery management topics and get your brains and boots into gear. The 'logical' management objective of any Scottish salmon fishery board should primarily be focussed on wild 'smolt output' on the 'in-river' side of things yet I've never seen a graph chart at any fishery board AGM showing the next 3 to 5 years smolt output targets! How you achieve that we'll that's up to the river management for the time being however PD Malloch was doing it successfully on the Tay well over 100 years ago without showing any of his fish a light bulb and today on the other side of the coin the massive salmon farming industry has got this concept down to a fine art. Or maybe the master plan for our team is to wait until there are no 'native' brood stock left and then be forced to bring in non genetically intact stock like what happened with the recent re-introduction of beavers to the Scottish rivers even though our salmon fishing biologist 'experts' labour on about the survival resilience & importance of individual salmon breeding populations!
Excuses For No Smolt Ranching Action
Lets look at some of the main reasons for the current inaction in significantly bolstering wild smolt numbers. They say too many additional smolts will compete with the wild 'in-river' stock but that's not the case as juvenile salmon are 100% territorial and will spread out to find their own patch plus there's absolutely zero chance of any salmon river in the northern hemisphere being any where remotely close to having too many juvenile salmon at any stage of growth. In addition to these facts wild ranched salmon smolts could easily be held back until they're ready to migrate and be dropped in the lower reaches of a river sysyem nearer the tide and well away from the traditional in-river spawning & juvenile areas where the adult brood stock were caught and stripped. They say they'll increase predation levels if large quantities of ranched smolts are released but again not if they're taken to a downstream location nearer the sea away from the current river predation and their releases staggered with maybe even a ghillie 'on patrol' for a few weeks. This would create an inconsistent and short term release pattern away from the huge in-river predation that plagues most salmon rivers these days. They talk about genetic integrity being compromised but again by only using brood stock from headwater tributaries that completely negates that argument as these fish were physically going 'no further' in the river system from where they were caught for stripping. Wild smolt ranching in effect will give on a worst case scenario 10 times the smolt output that one pair of spawning salmon could provide in the wild therefore seriously bolstering smolt outputs and giving Mother Nature a much needed helping hand.
The Current Stock Decline Topic
The 'current' topic to deflect blame from the management's position of national trust is yet again 'ocean mortality' and what a brilliant distraction and cash generator that has been. After decades of struggling to manage the basic 'in-river' issues in our own back yards these management bodies now want to take on the North Atlantic!! Yes I agree there is and always has been ocean (& in-river) mortality issues but I'm also astute enough to know that the planet has been adjusting since the 'dawn of time' and these changes are nothing new even though tinkering with the earth's stratosphere with metallic dusts isn't ever going to be beneficial to any form of planetary life (Google 'geo-engineering' if that has gone right over your head!). The warming of the ocean is best described as trying to heat up a very deep cold bath with an electric hair dryer and oceanic temperature changes can only logically be initiated from the earth's ever changing core (research global volcanic activity for current proof) and not from a 'man made' or naturally occurring green house effect. In the 70's on the Tay we used to be snapping ice off the rod rings during September and these day we're putting on factor 30! Salmon adjust the same way any species adjusts or they'd be extinct thousands of years ago. To summarise this planet is best described as a 'work in progress' so get used to it as all species of life have done for thousands of years. Have you heard the common sense analogy that 'if you throw enough mud at a wall some will stick' well there we have the most practical do-able solution to quickly repairing 'commercially viable' salmon stock numbers in any Scottish salmon river and the fact that this isn't already 'fully' underway as part of the salmon stock management strategy is additional proof that a major management rethink is seriously now overdue.
Salmon Migration Information Could Already Have Hurt Us
It wasn't that long ago when the AST took action to survey and identify the exact flight paths of our juvenile & adult salmon to and from the feeding grounds. At that time I got seriously worried that this Norwegian & Scottish Government funded project could potentially put 'highly' sensitive wild salmon migration route data into the wrong hands. I wrote at that time to a few leading UK fishing magazines but they chose not to publish my legitimate concerns. Call me overly suspicious if you wish but it's human nature to get greedy and why would any commercial skipper care a jot about some Scottish rural economies annual visitor levels if he could fill his hold with God's very finest wild food source which just so happens to also be worth a small fortune. It wasn't that many years ago either that a huge illegal fishing operation was discovered in Scotland where some of the biggest and well known commercial fishing families & their business's had duped fishery inspectors with under dock tunnels and secret processing rooms and had gotten away with some £63 million worth of illegally caught fish. If I hadn't presented this evidence of what goes on I guess I'd be badged a 'conspiracy' theorist or a 'critical thinker' as it's more respectfully referred to. Are we really that naive to think that similar criminal minds haven't taken a close look at our 'unguarded' wild Scottish Atlantic salmon! The outcome of the above Aberdeenshire disgrace was a few fines & confiscations but no custodial sentencing which certainly puts out the wrong message! With this in mind then why are we not commissioning our own permanent wild salmon fishery patrol vessels that are tuned into the latest satellite tracking technology to protect our known migration routes where our salmon are clearly and always have been vulnerable.
Recent Tabloid Salmon Stock Articles
While more and more of the UK tabloids jump on the complete 'doom & gloom' bandwagon with their appraisals of the state of Scottish salmon fishing and the well known and documented effects of 'aquaculture' as it's sexily referred to I'd like to add that this year was a dreadfully hot year by normal standards and salmon do not like those oxygen depleting warm river conditions so they rightfully stay away until the temperatures and water levels suit them better. Look at how many salmon the Crathie Beat of the River Dee caught in September when the river conditions improved as an example of this fact. While further damaging our industry at this troubled time the tabloids omit to mention that Spring salmon caught from the Tay this year although lesser in numbers were considerably larger in size, nor how the egg & chicken 'catch statistics' marketing from the main salmon fishing agent has done real damage to this industry by training most anglers not to book salmon fishing unless salmon captures are being recorded which can commercially 'death spiral' any beat even when there are salmon present to be caught. The tabloids also failed to mention that the salmon stock level figures in all medium to large Scottish rivers are and always have been 100% guesswork and that will remain the case until proper fish counter technology is implemented on all our rivers to gain vital and accurate stock information which should be another 'logical' and immediate step forward for Scottish salmon river management. Maybe the tabloids are being steered by hidden political agendas which wouldn't surprise me at all in this propaganda brainwashing era! With all of this in mind juvenile salmon output numbers from all Scottish rivers have to now be bolstered and managed correctly regardless of the ocean mortality rates which are likely to remain in a state of fluctuation as we are not in control of that nor are we ever likely to be in the foreseeable future. Alternatively, do we wait even longer and run the risk of an even longer turnaround time for enhancing & safeguarding Scotland's globally famous salmon fishing reputation.