Now wild Scot­tish salmon off menu

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS - By Krissy Stor­rar [email protected] Now world’s restau­rants take Scot­tish wild salmon off the menu as our rivers empty of fish

Wild salmon caught in Scot­land is now off the menu at restau­rants af­ter the clo­sure of the coun­try’s main com­mer­cial fish­ery.

The world-fa­mous fish can only be sold if it is caught and killed at strictly reg­u­lated net­ting sta­tions.

But, we can re­veal, the last sta­tion in Scot­land has now closed on con­ser­va­tion grounds be­cause wild salmon num­bers have fallen so low. Last week, we told how global warm­ing and the im­pact of fish farms were among the fac­tors be­ing blamed for the worst salmon sea­son in liv­ing mem­ory.

Some beats on fa­mous rivers like the Spey and the Nith did not record a sin­gle salmon be­ing caught. Now, wild salmon from Scot­land is off the menu in restau­rants af­ter clo­sure of the fish­ery owned by Kinnaber Ltd on the North Esk near Mon­trose, An­gus, which once caught around 1,700 salmon a year. Most were sent to Billings­gate mar­ket in Lon­don to be sold to restau­rants and fish­mon­gers.

The Esk District Salmon Fish­ery Board is now poised to buy the fish­ing rights from Kinnaber.

The deal will ef­fec­tively end the sale of wild salmon for con­sump­tion as the board will no longer per­mit net fish­ing on the river.

Board di­rec­tor Dr Craig Macin­tyre said: “For wild Scot­tish salmon this is pretty much it.

“This was the last salmon net­ting sta­tion in Scot­land.

“It could end it for con­sump­tion as it’s il­le­gal to sell rod-caught salmon.” Dr Macin­tyre added: “The rea­son we’re buy­ing these net­ting rights is twofold.

“There’s one for con­ser­va­tion of salmon to pro­tect fu­ture stocks and the board also has a pol­icy that if a net­ting sta­tion comes up for sale then we will try to buy it, which is what we’ve done here.

“Also, the value of a rod-caught salmon is far in ex­cess to the lo­cal econ­omy and the river than one that’s caught in a net.

“Each salmon caught to the rod would be maybe worth £2,000 to the lo­cal econ­omy.

“When you fac­tor in rents and peo­ple com­ing to visit and stay­ing in ho­tels and go­ing out for meals then the mul­ti­plier re­ally takes ef­fect.” Bob Ritchie, who ran R&S Fish­eries, which leased the Esk fish­ing rights from Kinnaber, said he was sad­dened by the demise of the net­ting in­dus­try.

The 73-year-old said: “It’s the end of an era. I don’t know where the cus­tomers will get wild salmon from now.

“We could have sold dou­ble what we were catch­ing.”

A sin­gle net­ting op­er­a­tion will re­main on the River Tweed which can sell wild Scot­tish salmon – but its fish are caught in Eng­land.

By law, wild salmon can only be caught and killed in rivers but it is il­le­gal to sell rod-caught salmon. Fish­er­men have been banned from catch­ing and killing salmon in coastal waters since 2016 by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

The mea­sures have been put in place to pro­tect the dwin­dling stocks of wild At­lantic salmon. Num­bers have fallen by 70% in the last 25 years and this year was the worst salmon sea­son in liv­ing mem­ory for an­glers.

A top fish­mon­ger said it has now be­come so dif­fi­cult to source that cus­tomers who want wild rather than farmed will have to ac­cept Pa­cific salmon from Canada.

Jeremy Grieve, of lead­ing on­line fish­mon­ger The Fish So­ci­ety, said: “We now won’t sell it be­cause we can’t get it, and it’s prob­a­bly the right thing to not pur­sue it.

“Last year we prob­a­bly bought a few hun­dred fish, this year I think we bought eight.

“The prices when they did be­come avail­able were very high.

“The Cana­dian mar­ket is off-set­ting the down­fall of the Scot­tish sup­ply.”

Across Scot­land, 2,113 wild salmon and grilses – those that have spent only one win­ter at sea – were caught by the net and coble method in 2017. This is the low­est since records be­gan in 1952.

Net and coble fish­ing in­volves us­ing row­ing boats to drag nets across the river and draw fish to the bank. They are then killed and the car­casses are tagged and packed in ice to be trans­ported to mar­ket. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has no plans to lift the ban on the re­ten­tion – or catch­ing and killing – of wild salmon at sea.

A spokesman said this was un­likely to change in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Dwin­dling stocks of wild At­lantic salmon is now forc­ing top restau­rants to source sup­plies from Canada

We re­veal rivers cri­sis last week

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