VEGA News Item

New Angles in Salmon Stocks on the Overfished River Tay - 16/01/2008
While animal welfarists and environmentalists must appreciate the global aspects of commercial fishing for food and household goods (and this concern embraces sea-mammals such as whales and seals), there are matters closer to home that we must face...

1. While animal welfarists and environmentalists must appreciate the global aspects of commercial fishing for food and household goods (and this concern embraces sea-mammals such as whales and seals), there are matters closer to home that we must face.

(In passing, we must also note the excuse for some whaling in the interests of “scientific research” and the use of fish in experimental toxicology, included in which are tests for nutritional and safety reasons, such as the EU’s intentions to mount exercises on the registration and authorization of 30,000 or so household things and comestibles). At least, fish are becoming recognised as sentient animals and therefore deserving of more concern than hitherto.

2. This challenge is sharpened for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which must surely opine on the match of factors in its nutritional advocacy of consumption of fish by humans and the environmental and animal welfare challenges that ensue; and what of the consequences for consumers inspired by strong aversions in which such challenges are reinforced by other considerations such as distaste, dislike, and disgust? VEGA has a longstanding stake in these matters and solutions (e.g. with the LIPGENE project, in which the University of Coleraine, in Northern Ireland, is involved in the Euro-interest; and factors in vitamin D, essential polyunsaturated fats, and iodine and selenium need to be weighed up and dealt with. How much did our grannies know when they declared that Fish is Good for the Brain? The FSA’s acclaim for eating up our greens is another sign of the flattery expressed by imitation). Here is also a topic for the Food Ethics Council to pronounce on.

3. “Anglers lose out in the fight to conserve Tay salmon” introduces a tale of increasing woe in a “sport” linked closely with food production but now suffering common problems with conservation, catches and welfare. Recording these matters the Independent (14 January 2008) writes: “For generations the Tay was without peer as a salmon river. Every season the king of fish returned; every year skilled anglers pitted their wits against it”. However, declining populations of the wild fish have “devastated” Scotland’s reputation “as the place to catch it”. Rules just announced look like “a further blow destined to finally wreck anglers’ dreams of landing salmon on the banks of the Tay”. Access to the river’s banks will cost anglers between £50 and £400 a day and for that they will not be allowed to take home more than one fish a day.

4. Anglers have maintained that stocks had stabilized recently, but conservationists disagree, saying that the population is not increasing sufficiently. Anglers have been able to take home half of the fish they caught. Under the new regulations they will also have to return to the water the first fish they catch, “which will force some to go home empty-handed”. The revision of angling policy has been introduced by a coalition of organizations in the area who wanted to tackle the declining population of salmon before the start of the next fishing season on 15th January 2008.

5. Further measures will follow when the breeding period begins in June. “Enthusiasts” will be prohibited from removing female salmon at that time as they will then be carrying eggs. From June all fish weighing more than 15lbs will have to be returned. The cause of the decline is not known: it may be poaching and over-fishing or global warming. Many anglers blame fish farming for harming an ecosystem they have striven to preserve. Duncan Glass, secretary of the Tay Ghillies Association, says that “the catch-and-release policy will be exercised more strictly in the next year”. The general rule will be just one fish to take home per day; “then from June you will be expected to return all hen fish and all fish over 15lbs, so that bigger fish have a better change of returning”.

6. Tourism is a factor Mr Glass dwells on. “We don’t want to chase anglers away to places like Norway and Russia, so if we allow them to take one fish home that’s something, Mr Glass says. Enforcing the various catch-and-release measures in the region has been “challenging”: in the first year only 10% were returned. “If we can get the rate up to 75% then that will be a real achievement”, says Mr Glass.

7. The president of the Scottish Anglers’ National Association, Ronnie Picken, takes a sceptical view on the lasting effect the regulations would have on Scotland’s dedicated anglers. “There will always be some fishermen who have fished all their lives and taken what they liked. I doubt that will change whatever restrictions are brought in”, he says. It appears to us that confirmed hunters on land and water share a disdain for the restraint required in the interests of wildlife and the environment. The countryside images of the fisherman in his waders in the clear waters of streams and rivers and of the shooting party of lairds and peasants (some with an h) and the hunters resplendent in their kit and accompanied by packs of dogs are as unsustainable as the keeping of those little woolly bundles on the already denuded and exposed moors aptly described as less favoured areas for farming and food-production.  


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