Statement from Joan McAlpine MSP on wild fisheries

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Following last week’s media report on the implementation of measures to conserve wild salmon, Joan McAlpine MSP issued the following statement:


“I will be deeply disappointed if these regulations are enforced in a way that threatens the unique tradition of Haaf netting on the Solway. The regulations still need to go before committees of the Scottish Parliament and enforcement is by no means a fait accompli. I know MSP colleagues are unhappy about the impact on traditional netters. I understand that ministers must meet conservation obligations but not at the expensive of our heritage – a balance has to be found.


“While a total kill ban affects anglers as well as netters on grade three rivers such as The Annan, the catch and release policy that will apply to anglers should the regulations go ahead has a 10% mortality rate. The Haaf netters argue their catch should be based on that 10% as they have zero mortality on catch and release. That seems extremely reasonable to me, especially if it preserves the tradition and generates an (albeit reduced) income for Annan’s Common Good Fund.


“Angling will survive the regulations, it is this country’s most popular participation sport.  But if Haaf netting disappears from the waters off Annan, it disappears forever. There is such a thing as “human ecology”, preserving unique aspects of our culture, and that should be taken into consideration.”


Last year Ms McAlpine tabled a motion to parliament recognising the cultural importance of the unique fishing methods on the Solway and the threat posed to them. She proposed that Haaf netters be treated as a heritage fishery and protected. The motion gained cross party support. Ms McAlpine argued the same point in her submission to the consultation on fisheries regulation last year.


Notes to editors: 


Consultation submission attached.  Text of Parliamentary motion below:


Motion S4M-14806: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/11/2015

That the Parliament recognises what it sees as the cultural importance of the unique fishing methods on the Solway Estuary; understands that the practice of “haaf-netting” was introduced by Norse-Gael settlers in 900 AD; believes that the net fishers living in the Royal Burgh of Annan have heritable rights that date back centuries, which were confirmed in the Royal Burgh charters of 1538 and 1612; appreciates that these are part of the history of Annan and are celebrated annually as part of the Riding of the Marches; is concerned that proposed regulations to introduce mandatory “catch and release” on all methods of fishing in districts categorised as grade 3 will end all net-fishing on the estuary; believes that a blanket catch and release policy unfairly disadvantages haaf-netters, whose method, it understands, has a zero-mortality rate compared with the 10% rate for rod-caught fish; acknowledges the importance of conserving wild salmon and the principle that the killing of the species must be licensed, sustainable and not present a threat to vulnerable stocks; notes, however, the view that the ancient practice of haaf-netting must be allowed to continue, and believes that the haaf-netters meet the criteria for heritage status in the same manner as the guga hunters in the Hebrides, who are exempted from the ordinary protection afforded to sea birds under UK and EU law.


Supported by: James Dornan, Adam Ingram, Elaine Murray, Anne McTaggart, Bill Kidd, Mike MacKenzie, Kenneth Gibson, Richard Lyle, Jean Urquhart, Alex Fergusson, Colin Beattie, Gil Paterson, David Torrance, Dave Thompson, Sandra White, Mark McDonald


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