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History of the RTC

History of the RTC

Our history is rooted in the complexity, rivalries, passion and economics of protecting a remarkable resource, shared between two nations - the migratory Atlantic Salmon of the River Tweed.

Even in the 13th century - probably earlier - Berwick-upon-Tweed was making a lot of money exporting netted, salted salmon to the rest of Europe, and the English & Scots were squabbling over taxes, close-times and access. Although there were localised rules, it was pretty much a free-for-all.

Fast forward to the 18th century. Even after the union of the Scots and English parliaments in 1707, there were still no joint laws governing the Tweed fisheries, a lot of lawlessness, and little or no protection of spawning or smolt migration. Until 1771, when An Act for Regulating and Improving the fisheries in the River Tweed received Royal Approval. This was a start - if not very successful - but men of vision (Scots, English – Borderers all, including Sir Walter Scott) kept at it. Until 1807, when the Act that established the RTC came into force. It was ground-breaking – for the first time, the commercial interests of the lower river were balanced by the importance of salmon migration to the upper river. From this time on the river moved slowly from a primarily commercial netting operation to the world-class rod fishery it is today.

Of course, there have been many changes since.

Other Acts followed - none more generally popular than the last - until 1969, when the Tweed Fisheries Act enlarged the RTC to include local authorities and Angling Clubs.

After Scottish Devolution in 1998, all the old legislation was swept away and we now have the Scotland Act 1998 (River Tweed) Order 2006, which includes the provisions of earlier Acts and some improvements: A hefty name for a law that’s fundamental aim is the same as it was over 200 years ago - to protect the salmon of the River Tweed.

It has never been easy. Although the tools we now use; the understanding of biodiversity, genetics, bio-security and much else, are a great improvement on the appointment of a Bailiff Overseer for the whole river in 1812, for which “he shall have a horse”, there is still a long way to go.

Salmon Netting on the River Tweed at Paxton.

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