Decline of Salmon Debate

Written by Ted Eadie on .

 Debate on the long term decline of Salmon Stocks. Partliament Building Edinburgh 4th April 2019.

Given the status of Salmon Stocks in Scotland, I’m surprised this has not taken place before now. However, better late than never. Given what I’ve seen over the past 30 years, I’m surprised those with the power to help the decline have eventually admitted to the problem. That said, this in itself is refreshing. 


This being the case, I look forward with anticipation to what I’m about to hear. Given some of the numbers I’ve heard muted by Marine Science Scotland, the mind boggles at what they may have told MSPs regarding salmon stocks as, other than a few rivers with functional fish counters, they themselves have no idea of how many fish are there. 

There were 10 active MSPs in the chamber, 6 of which were Conservative. 2 SNP, 1 green and 2 Labour. 

I was disappointed by the absence of my local MSP and more SNP MPs given that the industry is worth £100m to the Scottish economy and if run by the right people should be worth 5 x that. For those who were there I thought it was a good start and gives me a much better idea of their general lack of knowledge and reliance on those feeding them information. Although much as I thought, I was , never the less, surprised at just how ill informed most were. Much work to be done here and It reinforces my believe, without the help of Ghillies, Anglers and people on the groundsel people have no chance of making the “right “decisions. However, a good start never the less. 

One of the main things to come from the debate was the fact that all recognised the problem. This is a start. 
Rachael Hamilton MSP highlighted the issues in a 7 minute opening. The usual suspects but with an emphasis on Predation. 
Not enough time to properly debate the subject. But I suppose it’s the same for all those things in this place. 
Green Party Support. I Thought relevant in this parliament because they prop up the SNP. 
The Green MSP (south west Scotland) raised the issue about new licences for Fishfarms on the west. He also learned more about salmon in the 30 minutes than he had previously knew. 
All speakers quoted figures from ICES. In the 1960s there were 1.3 million salmon, now only 600k. Quoted by 3 of seven speakers, this tells me that no one has a clue what they are talking about because this figure is total rubbish. Those MSPs are only as good as the information they receive and with regard salmon numbers, they are wildly off the mark. 
It’s back to the old question – How can you manage something properly when you have no idea what it is you’re managing? 
The main breakdown here as I see it comes from a lack dialogue between those people on the ground and the various organisations charged with running salmon fishing. Frankly I see more politics within them than I saw today in the house. Today I saw people with a genuine interest in helping. 
Going forward –
I was interested to hear the Green MSP talk about the need for dealing with predation. If he, and the others only knew the real number of fish we had in Scotland and not the figure pulled out of the hat, he’d sanction a cull of non native Goosanders right now. This would not “fix” the problem, but it would give us breathing space. Catch and release bought us time, unfortunately to many people thought it would be a saviour. All it did and will continue to do is buy time. And distort our understanding of catch stats. 
Precautionary Management –
Do what we can, assuming the situation is worse than we actually think. 
Better water quality, habitat improvement! We have actively pursued those for 20 years, nothing has changed. When will we realise this is not the issue! All this does is “sound” good to the uneducated, in actual fact it’s achieved nothing! Juvenile surveys. They’re telling us all is well in our rivers, yet every Ghillie Around on our rivers for 30 or more years challenges this, although purely anecdotal, their evidence, never the less is better than the alternative, which is “nothing”. After all, theirs is simply a more primitive way of counting, but counting never the less. 

Giver they now know there is a serious problem, there’s a genuine interest in opening dialogue with all stakeholders, and I feel that anyone with an interest in this subject should point it, not toward their local MSP (unless they were present today) but to Rachael Hamilton MSP, as she looks very interested in championing the cause whilst others are simply paying lip service. They’re all pretty good at this. However, I genuinely felt Ms Hamilton was more than interested.