No help for an­glers over ‘alien species’

Fish­eries: Ap­peal for help to erad­i­cate alien sal­mon re­jected by Scot­tish Govern­ment

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KIERAN BEAT­TIE

The Scot­tish Govern­ment has re­fused to help an­glers with their “back-break­ing” ef­forts to prevent an alien species from get­ting a foothold in a Scot­tish river and plac­ing a £15mil­lion in­dus­try at risk.

An op­er­a­tion is un­der way to re­move eggs from the spawn­ing sites, or “redds”, of Pa­cific pink sal­mon.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment has re­fused to help an­glers with their “back-break­ing” ef­forts to prevent an alien species from get­ting a foothold in a Scot­tish river and plac­ing a £15mil­lion in­dus­try at risk.

A ma­jor op­er­a­tion is un­der way on the River Dee to re­move eggs from the spawn­ing sites, or “redds”, of Pa­cific pink sal­mon.

The first of the fish was landed by a north-east an­gler on July 10 – since then, dozens more have been ob­served along the river, and the Dee Dis­trict Sal­mon Fish­ery Board and River Dee Trust has asked for any ir­reg­u­lar catches to be re­ported.

The species was also recorded in the River Ness this sum­mer.

In a state­ment ear­lier this year, Fish­eries Man­age­ment Scot­land said that, while risks cre­ated by the species are not yet fully un­der­stood, “they are un­likely to have a pos­i­tive im­pact” on na­tive fish such as the At­lantic sal­mon.

But de­spite the potential dan­gers and an ap­peal for as­sis­tance by the trust, a spokesman for the Scot­tish Govern­ment said no sup­port will be pro­vided be­cause of “un­cer­tainty” over the most ap­pro­pri­ate man­age­ment op­tions and the true threat the fish poses.

The trust’s river di­rec­tor Mark Bilsby, who pre­vi­ously worked for 10 years as a se­nior fish­eries bi­ol­o­gist for the Western Isles Fish­eries Trust, said in­tro­duced species have sel­dom proven to be good news for Scot­tish ecosys­tems.

He said: “There’s quite a few of us here, but it’s phys­i­cally de­mand­ing, back-break­ing work.

“You’re go­ing up to 60cm (23inches) un­der the gravel, of­ten in quite deep water. There’s only a lim­ited amount of time to re­move these redds, so if we need to do it quickly and ef­fi­ciently, we re­quire more sup­port.

“We’ve been sup­ported bril­liantly by ghillies and an­glers, who have shown us redds they have spot­ted, and some of them have rolled up their sleeves to help.

“At the mo­ment, the Scot­tish Govern­ment has asked the UK Govern­ment for a de­tailed risk as­sess­ment be­fore they take an ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion.

“If the risk as­sess­ments come back and say they aren’t a prob­lem, then so be it, but if they are a prob­lem then we need to take con­certed ac­tion over a much wider area.

“I can’t think of an in­va­sive species that has come to Scot­land which has been ben­e­fi­cial.

“The grey squir­rel came and out-com­peted the reds, and Ja­panese knotweed – if that had been lit­er­ally nipped in the bud it would have saved a for­tune.”

The trust has so far iden­ti­fied more than 200 redds along the river be­tween Ban­chory and Garthdee, how­ever Mr Bilsby said the “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity” of redds in­ves­ti­gated so far have been free of eggs.

A spokesman for the Scot­tish Govern­ment said: “While we recog­nise and re­spect the de­ci­sion of boards to in­vest staff time and vol­un­teers to de­stroy pink redds, we are not pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance given there re­mains much un­cer­tainty re­lat­ing to the risk and im­pact of pink sal­mon and the most ap­pro­pri­ate man­age­ment op­tions to re­duce spread.

“For ex­am­ple, when redds were cleared from the River Dee no eggs were found, which could be be­cause of ‘false redd be­hav­iour’.

“At­tempt­ing to de­stroy all the redds in one river may have lit­tle ben­e­fit, if egg stocks are found in ad­ja­cent rivers which then go on to pro­duce fish which re­turn to the gen­eral area.

“Our pri­or­ity is to work with Fish­eries Man­age­ment Scot­land, mem­ber boards and trusts, SNH and SEPA so we have clear strate­gies in place for any future re­turns of pink sal­mon.”

“To do it quickly and ef­fi­ciently we re­quire more sup­port”

SOME­THING FISHY: Work to re­move spawn of the non-na­tive Pa­cific pink sal­mon is ‘back-break­ing’ work

Pa­cific pink sal­mon eggs re­cov­ered from the Dee

There are fears the alien fish will upset ecosys­tems

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