IF THERE is a single publication which presents a clear and balanced view of the health and welfare of Scotland’s migratory game fish, it is the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards’ (ASFB) annual review.

Launched last year in a new format, this report should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the future of salmon and sea trout in our waters. The 2010 review, just published, contains a wealth of valuable statistics and level-headed analysis by those at the coal face and offers much-needed perspective in a climate too often clouded by uninformed comment, speculation and occasional hysteria.

Campbell Adamson: 'legal action when necessary'

Increasingly hostile recently in the tone of its condemnation of the aquaculture industry, the ASFB continues its forthright approach. Chairman Hugh Campbell Adamson in his introduction writes:

We must be prepared to make ourselves unpopular, we must be prepared to be uncooperative and we must even be prepared to take legal action when necessary. We cannot allow self-interest or apathy to jeopardise the future of our salmon and sea trout.”

Beyond the clearly vexed issues surrounding fish farming, the 2010 review delivers stimulating articles on salmon marine mortality (Prof Chris Todd), the SALSEA programme (Dr Ken Whelan), poaching and wildlife crime (Brian Davidson), the work of Fish Legal (Robert Younger), invasive species (Chris Horrill), and how Iceland is bucking the trend (Mark Ainscough).

Statistically, however, ASFB managing director Andrew Wallace reports 2009 in Scotland as a “moderately poor year” with salmon stocks down, largely due to poorer marine survival.

Some rivers, like the Nith and the emerging Snizort, show evidence of positive trends based on effective management, while others remain dogged by a wide range of obstacles, both physical and administrative.

The report is chiefly outward looking, but it is worth noting that according to the figures, the ASFB membership itself shrank by one last year.  Mull no longer appears to be represented.  And if there is a  gap in an otherwise excellent publication, it is the absence of any comment on the need to extend its work to non-represented catchments – like the Clyde for example.

The report concludes with an insightful tailpiece by Andrew Rettie of property agents, Strutt & Parker setting out the economics of running a 4-rod beat with an annual catch of 100-150 salmon.

The figures are theoretical, but the message is based on reality. Income – £20,000; expenditure – £41,000; purchase cost £1.039 million. The result, as Mr Micawber would have said, misery.

But then he clearly wasn’t an angler.

The 2010 review has not yet appeared on the ASFB’s website. When it does, you will be able to access it here.