The Scottish Government’s penchant for creating multi-disciplinary committees as an aid to fending off criticism of policy decisions – or the lack of them – was in evidence again when it announced in mid-November, the creation of an independent group charged with producing a plan “to safeguard the long-term future of salmon fishing.”

Headed up by career civil servant David Crawley,  former head of the food and agriculture department in Scotland and currently a board member of SNH, the Mixed Stock Salmon Fisheries Group, is made up of representatives of

  • Scottish Government
  • Fisheries Research Services
  • The Association of Salmon Fisheries Boards
  • The Atlantic Salmon Trust
  • The Salmon and Trout Association
  • Scottish Anglers’ National Association
  • The Salmon Net Fishing Association of Scotland
  • Independent salmon netsmen

The announcement came with usual self-approving comments from Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead about this being “decisive action to safeguard [salmon fishing’s] long-term future.”  And with the usual platitudes about maximising jobs, investing in rural businesses and investing in sustainability.

In context, however, the move seems much more the result of dire warnings from the Faroese and Greenland authorities at the NASCO annual meeting last June about the lack of action by Scottish and Norwegian authorities to end coastal netting operations.  This added to pressure from the Salmon and Trout Association and from the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, whose chairman, the respected Orri Vigfússon,  accused the Scottish Government of persisting with “misguided” policies, as I reported.

The heavyweight group will meet six times during 2009 and review all aspects of mixed stock fishing.  Their deliberations and the interplay between the various members will be important and should make for interesting reading during the year. Interim papers are promised.

We’ll see later if Crawley will come forward for an interview.