Anglers on the River Earn will be able take home some of the salmon they catch next year under revised river gradings.
The Earn had been subject to the most strident restrictions available – leading to local groups “haemorrhaging” members and “a perception the river was not worth fishing.”
But a change to the scientific model used to determined salmon stocks has led to the river being regraded, meaning anglers will no longer have to return everything they catch to the river during the coming year.
The proposed changes, on which the Scottish Government is now gathering views, comes after years of complaints from anglers, and the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, that the model used by government was miscalculating salmon stocks on the river.
Environment secretary, and Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Roseanna Cunningham, made the announcement on the banks of the River Earn yesterday.
“We are driven by the science. This is an objective assessment. I know that the anglers on the Earn will be extremely pleased. I know it’s been an anxiety to them.
“We know that overall salmon numbers are declining. But we know that within that different rivers come up slightly differently so this year the Earn – where for the last few years people haven’t been able to take home a fish – is changing for this year.”
Ms Cunningham said she was “particularly pleased” the river had been regraded.
“I await the publication of these draft regulations every year with great interest because I have a very local interest. It’s been tough the last few years, because I’m the government minister tasked with the responsibility for ensuring that we have as healthy a salmon stock in the whole of Scotland, but I’m also the local MSP for a very significant salmon river system.”
Gordon Taylor, secretary of the Crieff Angling Club, said the regrading was “wonderful” news for fishermen in the area and for those who travel to Perthshire for the sport.
“The club has been haemorrhaging members since the grading was introduced. I think we’ve lost between 25 to 30% of the membership in this period. This could allow us to rebuild.
“Most anglers want to take one fish home for the pot. It seems a little thing, but it’s very important.”
Dr David Summers, fisheries director, Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, said the model previously used by government to calculate the grading on the Earn had not been fit for purpose.
“People are concerned about salmon stocks but the model that was used had some significant problems with it. With respect to the Earn, it was defective. So we have been making representations about that since the grading system was introduced and are happy to see some of our concerns have been answered.
“The previous grading created the perception that the river was not worth fishing and it does highlight how important it is that this model is as accurate as possible.
“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government has progressed making changes to the model over time and, hopefully, it is now a fairer reflection of reality.”
The annual consultation on conservation of salmon measures – affecting 173 salmon rivers across Scotland – is published today. The public are now being asked to give their views on the proposed measures.