The application- who makes it and how is it assessed?

Anyone wishing to kill wild Atlantic salmon in inland waters, whether fishing by rod and line or net, will require to have a licence. Detailed guidance notes on the application process and how to  complete the application form will be available on the Marine Scotland website as soon as the window for applications opens – September/October 2015.

Having taken into consideration a number of comments made during the consultation process, it is intended that applications may be made by the owner/proprietor of the fishery or by anyone having the permission of the owner/proprietor.

The assessment of applications will be made on whether or not there is a harvestable surplus. The harvestable surplus will be calculated by Marine Scotland Science using available information on the numbers of returning salmon over the last available 5 years and assessments will be made on the basis of fishery districts.  Prior to the scheme application opening for applications a list of fishery districts with a harvestable surplus and provisional allocations to each fishery within these areas, based on their average catch over the same 5 year period, will be made available on the Marine Scotland website.

Applications will be considered within the following context and parameters

1.         Outside estuary limits – fisheries are considered to be mixed stock – killing of salmon is prohibited.

2.         Inland waters:

·      Estuary Limits to tidal limits – salmon stocks are considered to be closer to single stock therefore killing allowed if there is a harvestable surplus – but it is intended that there will be no increase in the numbers killed from the previous 5 year average.

·      Tidal limits upstream – salmon stocks considered to be most closely reflecting single river stock, therefore killing of salmon allowed if there is a harvestable surplus.

Licence numbers will not be transferrable between fisheries, meaning that if a given fishery decides not to apply for their allocation of any harvestable surplus  this will not be reallocated to other fisheries within the district.

The Regulations will apply nationally except for the Upper Border Esk (where the Environment Agency exercises functions) and decisions on applications will be made by Scottish Ministers.  It is intended that the proposals will extend also to the Tweed district where separate legislation is required.  Some respondents to the consultation expressed the view that such decisions are better made at local level. Ministers have committed to consult on  a Wild Fisheries Bill before the end of this Parliament and therefore it may be that in the future a different approach will be taken.

1.     Does the description above provide clarity on the way in which any application will be assessed and who may apply?

2.     What other aspects of the scheme would you like more detail on?

Why the contribution is important

Scottish Government wants to be confident that:    

·      The scheme is as transparent as possible

·      Users understand how the application process will be progressed

·      We are absolutely clear about the impact of the measures.

It may be that there are comments on aspects of the proposed application process which  can inform the guidance notes and application form and therefore we welcome your views.

by LockhartL on July 22, 2015 at 05:05PM

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  • Posted by Greenheart July 23, 2015 at 12:52

    The calculation of a 'harvestable surplus' is seriously flawed. Historic 5 year averages may have little relevance to the current year's run of fish.

    How would the system allow for a poor season after a run of good seasons?

    Surely local judgment by ghillies, proprietors, fishery boards and individual anglers is a more effective way of protecting stocks than a shotgun legislative approach?
  • Posted by Greenheart July 23, 2015 at 13:08

    I would advocate that Estuary Limits and Tidal Limits Upstream are exactly the same salmon stock and that the 'harvestable surplus' should be available to all fisheries within the combined area at equal cost for each and every fish tag.

    The idea that an Estuary Limit can be separately calculated is highly doubtful and seems purely to be a way of placating net fisheries where disproportionate numbers of fish are killed.
  • Posted by DanielHunter July 23, 2015 at 13:33

    Agree with both of Greenheart's comments though have some misgivings regarding 3rd para in 1st comment - would proprietors include netsmen here?

    In comment 2, an estuary should extend to seaward from the upstream tidal limit to the seaward Estuary limit as a single block.
  • Posted by galloway_fisher July 23, 2015 at 13:45

    The local body who is likely to manage the local rivers replacing boards should be able to deal and make local decisions regarding kill licenses as they will be more a tune to local factors.

    The main concern is how the harvestable surplus is calculated, rod and line method is flawed as there are less fishermen coming into the sport as it is, many nets in many areas have been bought off by the local fishery boards. Surely the best method would be to look at electro fishing data for the rivers concerned by the likes of the local trusts and recommendations and applications being made in a local area. A five year average is a flawed measure and would need to be taken over a much larger time frame.
  • Posted by Greenheart July 23, 2015 at 13:48

    I too have serious misgivings about netsmen and their judgement.

    I would suggest there is a total ban on the sale of all wild atlantic salmon from whatever source and that netsmen are compensated by assessing the wholesale market value of their average five year declared catch. They could be paid that sum plus inflation for the next ten years and their rights to net could be scrapped for good.

    I would fund this by a levy on marine fish farms which have caused so much devastation to migratory fish over the past decades. With the multi-million pound fish farming industry profits the figures would undoubtedly add up.
  • Posted by galloway_fisher July 23, 2015 at 13:51

    What would happen at an application stage if a proprietor owned more than one beat on a river and in some cases owned fishing on more than one river systems. Would they have to apply for Kill licenses per beat or per river? Or where fishing is rented out on a weekly basis to visiting anglers would it be up to individual anglers when they come to fish to apply for a kill license if they want to kill a fish (some anglers are happy to return all fish some do like to take the odd fish) ?

    Decisions on the process need to not be rushed through but many of the tourists who come to fish a variety of rivers in scotland want to know what is happening before they book holidays. Many of the English river systems are improving and there is good fishing available in wales, if this is rushed through and badly thought out then there could be irrepairable damage to Scotland's fishing industry.
  • Posted by devronmac July 23, 2015 at 13:55

    My reading of this proposal is that killing of all salmon outwith estuary limits will be prohibited/illegal. Presumably this applies to all commercial salmon netting around the Scottish Coast. Perhaps we need a definition of what an estuarial limit actually is in Scotland.
  • Posted by scaredforsalmon July 23, 2015 at 14:02

    As has been said, catch return figures are not accurate, most conservation aware rod & line fishermen return their catch voluntarily, they have no reason to falsify figures. The ones who will kill every fish they catch know that they will be looked upon disfavourably by their fellow catch and releasers and also by the clubs or beat owners they get their permits from so will not report accurately anyway. Once a river has a few bad years of catches the fishermen stop coming and returns no longer bear any relationship to the amount of salmon actually in the river. The only way to accurately assess the number of salmon in any river system is to have a properly sited fish counter. No one beat can claim to have a good year of catches if they have the best holding pools and therefore the most fishermen, so if the licences have to be bought by the beat owners some will deem it a good investment and others won't, thereby limiting access to fishing, making it more exclusive, more expensive and ultimately more elitist when this government say they are trying to make it more accessible to all.
  • Posted by MH July 23, 2015 at 14:07

    I find it extraordinary that the killing of sea trout outside estuary limits is also not prohibited. Firstly for conservation purposes and secondly due to the enormous difficulties of monitoring any such netting operation and its inevitable bycatch.
  • Posted by devronmac July 23, 2015 at 14:16

     I agree with MH.It is indeed unfortunate that Sea Trout outwith estuary limits are not to be protected in the same way as salmon. Hopefully it will not be viable for commercial netsmen to target sea trout only. I really don't see how sea trout netting can continue without endangering coastal salmon stocks which are now to be legally protected.Perhaps the rationale behind this decision can be meaningfully explained?
  • Posted by marinescotland3 July 23, 2015 at 17:26

    Thank you for your comments so far. This has already been a useful engagement. There is clearly a diversity of views.

    Decisions require to be made using all the available evidence. Applicants will be at liberty to support their application with any additional evidence. If evidence exists at a local level it clearly makes sense for that to be shared in the context of any national measure being considered. It would be helpful to understand the evidence for a national conservation measure for sea trout outside estuary limits?

    Estuary limits are defined by The Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1866 or subsequent orders

    The estuary limits of the Tweed are defined under The Scotland Act 1988 (River Tweed) Order 2006 -

  • Posted by MH July 23, 2015 at 17:59

    marinescotland3 in relation to sea trout I would direct you to the Marine Scotland document 'Status of Salmon and Sea Trout Stocks 2013' pg 13 and 14.

    'Aggregated across all regions, the number of sea trout reported to have been caught by rod fisheries has decreased markedly over both the entire data period 1952-2013 and over the most recent 20 year period.......... the picture is one of historically low levels of adult returns to rivers across the whole of Scotland.'

    I would actually include estuaries for Sea Trout as they are very important feeding grounds. If an estuary such as the Ythan was netted, with no quota's for Sea Trout, then it would have an enormous affect on a great number of rivers which seems at odds with much of what has been said in relation to salmon. Surely they can't be ignored?

    On the subject of estuaries the statement that 'Estuary Limits to tidal limits – salmon stocks are considered to be closer to single stock therefore killing allowed if there is a harvestable surplus' is far too simplistic. The differences between, say, the Forth estuary and all the rivers that are at risk that flow into it and a small contained single river estuary are simply too great to lump them all together.
  • Posted by scaredforsalmon July 24, 2015 at 10:55

    Although electrofishing can give a good record of the survival and growth rates from egg to parr & maybe even to smolt stage it does not give any data at all for survival at sea and returns of fish to natal rivers What is the problem with a properly sited counter apart of course from money.
  • Posted by marinescotland3 July 24, 2015 at 16:10

    To be clear, it is intended that applications would be considered from fisheries/proprietors as opposed to individual anglers.
  • Posted by lgiebuchan July 24, 2015 at 19:36

    I presume devronmac is aware that no protection is proposed whatsoever for sea trout - neither in the sea, within estuary limits or in the river.

    Any netting operator in an estuary such as the Ythan can sweep net and kill as many sea trout as he can catch within legal netting rules.

    This estuary is in effect a mixed stock fishery where sea trout from other rivers enter throughout the year to feed.

    As far as I am aware, almost every river trust and salmon fishery board has supported the need to have some sort of kill licencing system for sea trout, but these representations have been ignored.

    If you wish to protect our sea trout this is the time to speak out.

  • Posted by Electrofisher July 24, 2015 at 23:41

    In the summary above, I quote "The assessment of applications will be made on whether or not there is a harvestable surplus. The harvestable surplus will be calculated by Marine Scotland Science using available information on the numbers of returning salmon over the last available 5 years and assessments will be made on the basis of fishery districts. Prior to the scheme application opening for applications a list of fishery districts with a harvestable surplus and provisional allocations to each fishery within these areas, based on their average catch over the same 5 year period, will be made available on the Marine Scotland website."

    I sincerely hope the SG / Marine Scotland do not make the serious mistake of assuming the harvestable surplus will equate to the current annual rod catch based on the 5 year average (or net caught 5 yr average if applicable).

    This would be a serious mistake as it is accepted that the current kill levels are too high as the species populations are in decline. The annual rod catch data for any river in Scotland (based on it's 5 yr average) plus the annual net catch if applicable (based on it's 5 yr average) should only be used as a maximum limit, and not taken as the harvestable surplus figure.

    Doing so would see a continuation of the decline in populations or at best a status quo - but certainly no improvement!

    If it were to be assumed that all other pressures on the mortality of salmon across all life stages were to remain constant, if the SG / Marine Scotland were to say for example that the harvestable surplus was to be 50% less than than the current annual rod catch / net catch (if applicable), then it would be fair to assume there should be an instant increase in salmon populations from that point in time going forward.

  • Posted by splitcane July 25, 2015 at 09:13

    The Catch Returns which we all submit to Marine Scotland make a distinction btwn fish killed and fish released. In very simpistic terms, fish released (and reported thus by a fishery) may well be caught (and released or killed) by another fishery further upstream, therefore an element of double counting. That is "small beer" in context of the wider picture, but others on this thread have quite correctly made the important point that creation of a fixed and "enforceable" harvestable number is fraught with risk and deeply flawed - will lead (human nature) to a mindset of 'well, i have a tag, so let's keep it', irrespective of the sort of run that river is having that season. Dear oh dear, what an unholy mess!!
  • Posted by splitcane July 25, 2015 at 09:23

    With regard to the LtK and Tagging arrangements for Estuarial Netting stations, what happens if a netting station happens to catch its quota within a few weeks (supposing an influx of fish farm escapees arrives, or shoals of small grilse) - presumably the nets have to be taken off for the remainder of the season?? HOWEVER, if the netting operator is allowed to continue netting for sea trout, for instance, inevitably more salmon will continue to be caught, and presumably will have to be left, untagged, on the beach - result a dead salmon, no conservation?! Please Marine Scotland could you comment on this?
  • Posted by splitcane July 26, 2015 at 08:39

    In terms of the application process, could Marine Scotland please comment on the following points:-

    1. Am I right to assume that the catch details for each river, which MS will use to calculate any harvestable surplus, will be obtained from the statutory returns which each fishery has to make annually to MS and to the relevant DSFB?

    2. When it comes to a provisional allocation of a harvestable number for each fishery, will MS communicate with all fisheries on each river (not just those from whom it has received 5 years worth of returns, or indeed any returns)?

    3. Will MS be intending to liaise with each DSFB to ensure that all proprietors on that DSFB's Valuation (Levy) Roll are contacted with regard to the application process and provisional allocation?? if not, how does MS envisage that its communication exercise will be handled, and with reference to what database of fishery owners??

    4. For avoidance of doubt (having seen some of the comments under this thread), can MS please confirm that it will use the total catch per river - sum of Killed and Released fish - and not just the Killed fish figures - when calculating a harvestable surplus??
  • Posted by Speyfisher July 26, 2015 at 13:27

    There are some excellent and positive proposals here; the phasing out of mixed stock netting is long overdue, well done to the government for tackling what was considered too difficult by past legislatures.
    The point in the last paragraph about making decisions regarding the assessment of "harvestable surpluses" at a local level is one that I would support. I have no problem wiht the government legislating to provide itself with the powers to intervene if local management is not delivering national objectives but in most cases decisions are best made by appropriate local bodies equipped with the latest scientific knowledge, and more attuned to local culture, local fishery economics and community sensitivities. On most fisheries in-river exploitation is currently managed well with spring stocks conserved to a high degree through a combination of government and fishery board control. It is difficult to see how any intervention by the government will result in any greater degree of conservation than is currently delivered by the existing local management organisations. A sensible and measured response would be for the government to legislate the necessary powers but leave the decision making to the new local fishery organisations - the government only needs to intervene where best practice is not followed.
  • Posted by tweedfisher July 26, 2015 at 19:00

    Well said Speyfisher
  • Posted by Piscator July 26, 2015 at 23:40

    Marine Scotland, can you please clarify

    You said that "To be clear, it is intended that applications would be considered from fisheries/proprietors as opposed to individual anglers" but Lockhart also mentioned "by anyone having the permission of the owner/proprietor". Can you explain who exactly the latter might be?

    Can you also tell us what the benchmark for assessing harvestable surplus will be? i.e. what reference are the numbers of returning salmon going to be compared to? Is it going to be the number of salmon considered to be required to meet a conservation limit / spawning target or similar?

    Also when you say "provisional allocations to each fishery within these areas, based on their average catch over the same 5 year period" do you mean each beat's total catch (released plus killed) or just killed?

    When you say "Ministers have committed to consult on a Wild Fisheries Bill before the end of this Parliament and therefore it may be that in the future a different approach will be taken" do you mean this will apply nationally or would it just be applicable to the Tweed which was talked of in the previous sentence.

  • Posted by hitchfly July 27, 2015 at 05:15

    I question why it has to be the District that is allotted a quota. Surely if a District comprises, say, four rivers and one of these has fish counters monitoring it and the others dont, the monitored river should not be handicapped and should be awarded its own quota ? Could Marine Scotland please comment in that, thanks.
  • Posted by scaredforsalmon July 27, 2015 at 12:21

    Fish counters are the only way of relaiably informing on how many fish enter a river, they should also be able to say how many leave that river, so where there are less fish leaving than arriving that would indicate that newly leaving smolts are not keeping up with dying fish by whatever means and therefore the river is in bad shape and no fish should be killed, forget who and how they are being killed/dying, the fact is they are. If there are more fish leaving than coming in then perhaps they are recovering but how many years consecutively would we consider that to be an accurate measure as opposed to an environmental blip?
  • Posted by boabs55 July 27, 2015 at 13:18

    fish counters are the only way to get accurate fish numbers on all rivers. Sadly they cost vast amounts of money so no chance of them being installed anytime soon.What does that leave us with? A bunch of numbers which are not true as catch returns are very patchy whatever way you look at them but MS in their wisdom are going to use these to come up with harvestable forcasts. what a load of cock and bull this is going to be along with a long drawn out application process which no doubt will have some other hidden gems lurking within to make the whole thing nothing more than a shambles. Poorly thought out by folks who just do not have a grasp of the problem how can this be made to work?
  • Posted by RichardBrodie July 27, 2015 at 15:37

    Surely using the number of returning salmon is a crude measure to decide kill numbers. There is generally a lack of accurate information on rivers. Shouldn't the health of the river and its capacity to produce smolts be taken into consideration? There is something inequitable about c 90% salmon being taken at sea and next to none being harvested in rivers where a lot of endeavour has gone into improving the habitat.
  • Posted by UCF July 28, 2015 at 13:11

    The use of a Beats 5yr Catch Average to decide the numbers of Kill Licenses granted is seriously flawed.

    It does not factor in some very important variables that can have a huge impact on a catch average

    1, Rod Effort.
    2, Water Heights.
    3, Water Temperatures.
    4, Salmon runs vary from one season to another.
    5, Start and Finish dates of individual beats.

    To name but a few...

    Kill Licenses should be based on factual, evidence based research.

    I fear that Scot Gov is pushing through an ill thought out "mechanism" to avoid a fine and in-fraction from the EU regarding Salmon Conservation.
  • Posted by LateRoman July 28, 2015 at 17:21

    Fully agree with RichardBrodie that the issue is about conservation. After all, conservation is the Scottish Government's stated purpose in introducing a Kill Licence. Almost all rivers already operate a Catch & Release policy for Salmon, especially on hen fish, and have done so for a few years. More worrying is the scale of in-river and at-sea predation, coupled with the fact that (as far as I can see) no evidence has been provided in support of the Kill Licence proposal. The Scottish Government always reiterates that its decisions are taken on the basis of sound science and are evidence-based - as indeed they should be. Please will MarineScotland3 or Lockhart point us towards where this evidence can be read and assessed?
  • Posted by MJS65 July 29, 2015 at 12:01

    How will owners/proprietors distribute these tags? Other than too themselves and their pals?

    And the practicality of distribution - many beats never meet the angler; fishing is booked on-line, the angler turns up, fishes, fills in the book (possibly) and goes away. If he or she needs a tag, the estate office might be miles away - or even in another country (how many Scottish beats are owned and 'managed' from South of the Border for instance). He or she might see a river manager/worker/baliff - but very frequently not on many rivers - with the exception of the big 4 there are very few river workers left long since.

    There's been a seriously erroneous assumption throughout that most Scottish rivers are fished as per the big 4, with ghillies (prob in plus-fours), river managers, owners etc all milling around. This simply isn't the case on most fisheries. As I commented into the actual consulation, I haven't seen a baliff in over a decade of fishing on one of my local rivers (not one of the big 4, but no minor stream either).

    As things stand, this looks very like a system someone sat behind a desk would dream up. It's fine in theory, but theory is not reality.

    I'm generally supportive of tightening things up wrt conservation but I'm not understanding how this can/will work in practice wrt to the regular angler.

    You need to ask how this will actually work and not simply from the perspective of a govt office issuing tags to owner/proprietors. What then happens to the tags??

    Because if you and/or the the proprietors don't get that part right, then you're going to have a lot of angry anglers.

    If my view that in many cases owners will keep the tags for themselves and their pals turns out to be correct (and I'm pretty sure it will be), the system will have acted to make salmon angling even more exclusive than it already is (that's saying something). Such flies in the face of all other policy directions seeking to improve equality across all of the public.
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