An­glers fear for fu­ture of club

Dal­beat­tie An­gling man’s fear over lack of salmon

The Galloway News - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN NOR­RIS

The col­lapse of wild salmon stocks in Gal­loway’s rivers is a “tragedy of epic pro­por­tions”, it was claimed this week.

And Dal­beat­tie An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Will Mar­shall warned the lack of fish means the club – which cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary next year – could fold.

Mr Mar­shall spoke out after new Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment fig­ures showed salmon catches were the low­est since records be­gan in 1952.

He said: “The an­gling club for the first time in liv­ing memory lost money last year. Contrary to pop­u­lar be­lief it not just a sport for the rich.

“We have join­ers, plumbers, doc­tors and nurse and mem­ber­ship is only £100 a year.

“But peo­ple won’t buy a ticket if they don’t catch a fish. “The club is on the brink of col­lapse.” Mr Mar­shall said the as­so­ci­a­tion’s three beats of Craig­nair, Firth­head and East Lo­gan saw be­tween 150 and 300 salmon caught an­nu­ally un­til 2012.

“That’s when the River Urr col­lapsed and it has never re­ally re­cov­ered,” he said. “Since 2013 we have been bump­ing along about 50.

“All the west coast salmon fish­eries col­lapsed after 2012.

“Now, when re­turns show that wealthy east coast rivers col­lapsed last year – it sud­denly be­comes big news. “It is a trag­egy of epic pro­por­tions. “There have been other pe­ri­ods of very low re­turns. It may not be an ir­recov­er­able po­si­tion.

“But it is very hard to pin­point where the fish have gone.”

Mr Mar­shall, who rep­re­sents the club on the Urr Dis­trict Salmon Fish­ery Board, be­lieves sev­eral fac­tors are be­hind the de­cline. He said: “Stud­ies show the num­ber of smolts re­turn­ing as ma­ture salmon has dropped.

“In most rivers it’s down from 15 per cent to be­tween just two and five per cent.

“These ju­ve­nile fish leav­ing the rivers are just not com­ing back.

“The west coast of Scotland is plagued by salmon farms which have a mas­siv­ley dam­ag­ing ef­fect on salmon runs.

“Young smolts fol­low the coastal routes up the west coast to Ice­land and Green­land and pass a lot of salmon farms on the way.

“Ten to 15 sea lice on a young smolt will kill it stone dead.”

Mr Mar­shall sees pre­da­tion of smolts by birds, seals and ot­ters as a pos­si­ble is­sue.

He said: “A new study is look­ing at whether a higher per­cent­age of smolts are dy­ing in the es­tu­ary en­vi­ron­ment.

“If that is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor that be­comes within our con­trol.

“At least then we can say we have a prob­lem and can look at ways of help­ing the smolts get out to sea.”

Mr Mar­shall said the River Dee’s low re­turns – 17 salmon and no sea trout caught in 2018 – was caused by the hy­dro-elec­tric scheme.

“The first two or three dams have fish lad­ders but the top dams don’t,” he said.

“That means there has been a huge loss of spawn­ing habi­tat.

“The Dee has their own hatch­ery to try and com­pen­sate for that.

“Yet a renowned sur­vey of Scot­tish fish­eries from around 1910 de­scribed the Dee as one of the finest fish­ing rivers in Scotland. Now that’s gone.”

An­gling con­cerns River Urr near Dal­beat­tie is facing the col­lapse of salmon

Con­cerns Will Mar­shall from Dal­beat­tie An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion

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