The Forth: compromise reached
The Forth: compromise reached

STIRLING COUNCIL  today revealed it has backed down on its insistence that season ticket holders on its river Forth and Teith waters, abide by a 100% catch-and-release policy until the end of June.

The change of position seems to have averted – for the time being – the risk of a damaging dispute between the council and the Forth and Teith Angling Association, over the emergency policy for spring salmon and follows a meeting last night between the two organisations.

The anglers had robustly contested the council’s demand at the beginning of this month for a 100% catch-and-release policy to be imposed on season ticket holders on its Stirling and Callendar town waters during May and June.

Officials of the council, which operates a successful tagging scheme to limit and police catches on its waters, had raised the threat of a ban on anglers who did not comply.

The move followed the urgent plea from the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) for a complete halt to taking spring fish when it became apparent that catches on Scottish rivers in the early weeks of this season had shown an alarming drop.

Andrew Wallace, ASFB Managing Director
Andrew Wallace: "mystified"

ASFB managing director Andrew Wallace strongly criticised a “hard-core of anglers” in Stirlingshire who  “appear  determined to figh any restrictions and are making life as difficult as possible fo the Council.”

He said he found it “mystifying” why some people could not understand that maximum restraint was for the benefit of the river and the future of the fishery and condemned the “selfish action of a few anglers who persist in fishing for the freezer.”

Today, David Jones, Stirling’s fisheries officer, told Between The Lines, that a compromise had been reached with the Forth and Teith association.

“We have modified our ‘insistence’ to that of a ‘request’ to comply with the guidelines for 100% catch-and-release and we are trusting that the association anglers comply with that request,” he said.  As a result, the association had confirmed to him this morning that it was recommending to its members that they comply with the policy.

Jones said that the council was aware that between 20-26 salmon had been caught and killed on its waters since the opening of the season and had had to move quickly following the ASFB statement.

Faced with the threat of an open revolt by the anglers,  it is understand that the council had to acknowledge that it did not have the power to make a change a short notice to the rules applying to already-sold season tickets.

Jones added: “The situation is under review and we will have to look at our regulations for next year so that we can make changes which are in the interests of conservation, quickly – and police them.”

Salmon and sea trout are priority subjects in Stirling’s biodiversity programme and it has successfully operated a tagging scheme for 10 years.  Season ticket holders are supplied five tags per season to be applied to killed fish, enabling visible identification and policing of bag limits.

Around 10% of ticket holders are banned each year as a result of breaches of current regulations, but the council’s Countryside Team Leader, David Balsillie, revealed that surveys of anglers had shown a dramatic change in attitudes to conservation.

In 1995 just 51% of those surveyed supported bag limits, while last year a similar survey identified 83% in favour and 79% backing the tagging scheme.

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