Salmon stocks on the River Tay and the North and South Esk in Angus could be under threat from the demands of a group of Eskimo fishermen.
Greenland’s 2000 Inuit fishermen are pressing hard to be allowed to catch fish on a commercial scale a move that has sparked concerns over a knock-on impact on Scotland’s salmon rivers.
The demands have been looked on sympathetically in Greenland, and it appears its government may bow to pressure and opt out of an international agreement restricting the number of fish caught.
At present the Inuit can catch enough salmon to feed themselves and their families but are not allowed to sell any of them commercially. Now they are demanding the right to be able to land fish in greater numbers so they can make a living from it.
The move has been prompted by a growth in salmon numbers in Greenland, but the request is far from welcome as far as anglers and conservationists are concerned.
“Spring salmon caught on the Tay are released, it would be a bit galling if someone catches these fish on the other side of the Atlantic,” Dr David Summers, director of the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board, said yesterday. “It could have some knock-on effect.”
Calls to increase catches were not uncommon and whether they would ultimately be successful remained to be seen, he said.
Dr Summers pointed out that only a small percentage of the Tay salmon actually made the journey to Greenland. Research indicates many more migrate to an area between Shetland and north of the Faroes, so would be unaffected by any increase in catches in Greenland.
He said of the Tay that this year had been a “funny season.”
While there had been good numbers of late spring salmon on the river in recent months, this had not been reflected in catches.Conditions “not good””Conditions have been such that fishing on the Tay has not been that good,” he said. The Tummel, however, along with tributaries like the Lyon, reported their best fishing for a number of years.
The mixed messages were also reflected by the numbers being recorded at the fish counter at Pitlochry dam. They have already exceeded the total for the whole of last year.
Dr Summers said he would not be surprised if this year’s numbers counted were as high as those seen in the 1970s, although he pointed out that these figures were achieved against a background when netting was widely carried out on the Tay and anglers simply killed their catches.
The background to the Greenland demands are sustained improvements in the situation in the country, fuelling the appeal to be able to catch more.
Fears are that if the Inuits are awarded higher quotas, there will be even fewer wild salmon in not only the Tay but the Spey, Tweed and Esk.
Representatives of Greenland’s fishermen would like to see their country quit the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) if demands for higher quotas are not met.
“While our country’s professional fishermen have restrained from catching wild salmon based on decisions by NASCO, other fishermen in Norway, Scotland, Ireland and Canada have been given approval to fish for them in their waters,” said a spokesman.
“This is fundamentally unfair and is no longer acceptable.”
Last year on the River Tay the official salmon catch was just under 12,000 fish, the best catch for a number of years.
Dr Summers, along with others heavily involved in the wellbeing of Scotland’s salmon stocks, will await the outcome of the dispute with interest.
Photo used under Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user mastermaq.