Keeping Angling Associations Alive

Association fisheries which strive to provide low cost salmon angling for what might once have been called ordinary working class anglers often have intricate leasing arrangements with a variety of riparian owners.  What is more such Associations often have memberships which run into the hundreds of anglers, many of whom are elderly and on limited incomes.  Yard for yard and mile for mile Association water accommodates far more anglers than the more exclusive beats associated with salmon angling in this country.

Using the Loch Lomond Angling Improvememnt Association as a case study we find that it operates a variety of short and long term leasing arrangements with a number of riparian owners as well as owning fishings on it's own account.  In total it has around 750 full and associate members and provides day ticket access to hundreds of anglers each year.  It also own or lease access to around 15 miles of estuary, 40 miles of river and 26 miles of Loch.  Members have agreed to the introduction of conservation measures which limits each member to killing a maximum of 5 salmon per year under a carcass tagging system.  Since the scheme was introduced in 2012, only a handful of members have ever recorded killing more than 2 fish per year.    Recorded salmon catches are relatively stable in our system (including 2014) and kill rates for salmon have remained at around 100 fish a year for the last 3 years (about 30% of total recorded catch).  

The tagging system introduced by the LLAIA has not only been shown to work it also challenges the belief that anglers will kill to the number of tags they have been issued with.   The tagging system is safeguarded through the use of smart phone technology with bailiffs being able to access members photographs and tag numbers to confirm that an angler is using his / her own tags.

The difficulty for the LLAIA (and for other Associations who rely on multi-lease arrangements and/or have large number of members) is that the proposed model would in all likelihood limit the number of tags issued to Riparian Owners across the system to no more than the average kill rate, which in this case would be around 100 tags at best.  This of course assumes that riparian owners will apply for their full application of tags.  Unfortunately for the LLAIA 100 tags into 750 members and a large number of day ticket anglers will never go.  Fewer members will lead to less income which will lead to less protection on account of having less money available to properly watch and protect the system. 

To avoid this situation arising it is proposed that angling association who have multiple lease arrangements and /or large memberships (greater than 50 members) can, if they comply with the relevant criteria, apply for a number of tags per member up to a determined maximum as follows:

1.      Ministers will allow angling associations who can demonstrate a commitment to conservation and stock improvement and protection to apply for a set number of tags for every association member who wishes to purchase such tags (Tags cannot be obtained on behalf of members who wish to opt out of this scheme).  

2.      Strict criteria will be employed around what is meant by a commitment to conservation, stock improvement and protection.  This should include the deployment of regular bailiffing patrols, the implementation of meaningful conservation policies, including no kill periods in the spring and autumn and an investment in stock enhancement measures.

3.      Ministers will determine the number of fish that an Association can acceptably harvest.  It is recommended that this will be based on the average number of fish killed over the previous 5 years which will be taken to be the acceptable maximum.  Where sound scientific evidence demonstrates that this level of harvesting is unsustainable Ministers will be entitled to ask for a reduction in the number of fish harvested and will reduce the number of tags awarded to the Association for distribution to members, including where necessary the implementation of 100% catch and release.

4.      The maximum number of tags that can be applied for per association member would be 3.  Members can elect to apply for fewer than the maximum number of tags.

5.      Tags would be issued to individual anglers and would be strictly non transferable.

5.      All tags applied for would be charged at the appropriate rate. 

5.      Where an association is found to be harvesting in excess of 20% of the 5 year kill average then Ministers will be entitled to reduce the number of tags awarded to associations, including a move to 100% catch and release.

6.      Any such application to  Ministers must be supported by a majority of riparian owners.

 

Why the contribution is important

The idea is important as it would allow angling associations to offer all members who wish them access to a tag.  This will hopefully help maintain membership levels at sustainable levels.  

Fisheries would benefit as associations would have to show they were supporting conservation measures and were fully committed to stock improvement and fish protection.  

The experience of the LLAIA would suggest that kill rates would remain stable and the proposed tagging system would not lead to increased exploitation of fish stocks.   

by Renna on July 28, 2015 at 08:52PM

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Comments

  • Posted by lesd July 29, 2015 at 13:58

    Renna is to be congratulated on his comments: for certain one of the issues that has not been considered in these proposals is the deep and long lasting effects that they will have on Club and Association fishing in our country.
    Like Renna I am a member of 2 forward looking clubs each with large and healthy memberships and with practical attitudes to conservation. In one, Pitlochry Angling Club, the monitoring of water quality, poaching control, accurate assessment of stock levels, maintaining accurate catch records are among the many practical tasks that require a high level of commitment and involvement from our members: wide sections of the community offering different skills and expertise are actively involved.
    This good management is recognised by the wider angling community and we attract visitors (often from far afield) who in turn contribute substantially to the local economy often at times when tourism would otherwise be dormant. Visiting anglers' commitment to our forward thinking conservation policies are a condition of lease. C and R has been embraced and currently stands at well over 90%.

    The proposals as they stand will unfairly target such clubs of which there are several in this country offering fishing to the ordinary angler.

    The problem arises with the proposed tagging system likely to be based on the number of fish killed in that system or beat in an average year, and clubs or angling association with large memberships would be allocated tags to no more than the average kill rates.
     In clubs like mine for example with memberships in excess of 200 and kills rates of less than 10, these figures do not compute. How could tags be distributed in these circumstances? To whom? Would this type of fishery, so important to the ordinary angler and tourist alike not become, de facto, catch and release given the practical difficulties of equitable tag distribution?
    As Renna also states, anglers these days rarely kill up to the allowed limit, but in effect limit themselves to a minimum number as catch returns prove (80% C and R in 2013 over Scotland as a whole).
    Many believe as do I that anglers should nevertheless have the option to kill a fish should that be necessary, as it occasionally is, due for example to it being badly hooked: indeed it is perhaps for this reason that anglers should be required to carry a tag.

    The big danger however is that these fisheries become under subscribed, leading to less income for the important conservation work and to cover expensive rents. This could lead to stretches of water currently available to the public reverting to private leases which would affect both local angling communities and tourism alike.
    Rennas proposals therefore make sense. All large-member Angling Clubs and Angling Associations will face this dilemma, multiple lease or not. For me his proposals are fair, sensible, flexible and continue to embrace the all important conservation ethic. They strike an important balance between government control and effective local management.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
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