Spring Salmon remain scarce on the river and Tweed anglers are helping to play their part in preserving this small stock of fish by returning their catch to the water. The River Tweed Commission (RTC), on the advice of the Tweed Foundation, have implemented this successful Catch & Release policy since 1998, ensuring that enough fish return to the river to spawn, whilst keeping the valuable early-season fishing open, which helps contribute £24 million to the local economy annually. The RTC’s policy, based on sound, objective, data clearly indicates that there should be no killing of this fragile Spring stock.
The only commercially active netting station on the river, in Berwick – in the English part of the Tweed catchment, has now started to kill these early-running fish. Nowhere else in England can Spring Salmon be killed and, whilst the Gardo net fishery, operated by the River Tweed Wild Salmon Company, is operating within the current Scottish Government law, it flies in the face of the anglers upstream who are returning all the Spring Salmon they catch, unharmed, to the water to protect this fragile stock of fish, which come mainly from just two of the Tweed’s tributaries.
While the Scottish Government’s (SG) classification of the Tweed as being at Conservation Limit 1 allows wild fish to be killed, this does not take account of the fact that the Tweed’s Spring Salmon are, like those on other rivers, a separate and distinct type. The SG’s Conservation Limit, however, is actually calculated from all the different stocks of fish in a river combined, including the more numerous Summer and Autumn stocks, and so inevitably reflects the state of the stronger stocks rather than that of the weakest.
The Scottish Government now recognises the need for separate management of Spring Salmon stocks, and active discussions are being held with the RTC to see how an appropriate management regime can be achieved.
- RTC Spring Salmon Code
- The particular geography of the Tweed, split as it is in to five major tributaries, has allowed a better assessment of Spring Salmon stocks than would have been possible in a river of a different form. Work on Radio-tracking salmon the Ettrick and Whiteadder tributaries (as well as data from fish counters on these rivers) has shown them to be the main sources of Spring Salmon and from these and other information it is possible to estimate that there are only around 5-7,000 Spring Salmon for the whole Tweed catchment of some 5,000 km2, too few for the rod fishery to be allowed to kill any, given the greater susceptibility of capture of Spring Salmon (up to 40%). In addition to these two major spawning areas for Spring Salmon, some much smaller zones have been identified in other headwaters, the fish of which could be in very small numbers indeed and so at particular risk from a net fishery.