Here is the response that ART provided to the Scottish Government’s consultation on The Draft Provisions for a Wild Fisheries (Scotland) Bill. The government’s questions are in bold and ART’s responses are in italics.

We provide this to illustrate ART’s current thinking on the draft and this may change as more information become available. Trustees and staff contributed to the development of the response.

 

Submitted to Draft provisions for a Wild Fisheries (Scotland) Bill/Draft Wild Fisheries Strategy: a consultation Submitted on 2016-05-02 16:38:41

Introduction

1 Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Organisation

2 What is your name or your organisation’s name?

Name/orgname: Ayrshire Rivers Trust

3 What is your email address?

Email: info@ayrshireriverstrust.org

4 The Scottish Government generally seeks to publish responses to a consultation, in summary and where possible in detail. We would like your permission to publish:

Your response along with your full name

5 We will share your response internally with other Scottish Government policy teams who may be addressing the issues you discuss. They may wish to contact you again in the future, but we require your permission to do so. Are you content for Scottish Government to contact you again in relation to this consultation exercise?

Yes

Which sector do you associate yourself with (please tick all that apply)?

Academic, Angler (please specify the species that you fish for), Angling Club, Fishery Manager, NGO

Please specify business or other here:: Scottish registered charity. We are interested in all species angling but currently our main support lies within migratory salmonid anglers and trout.

Chapter 1: National Wild Fisheries Strategy

1 Are you content with the structure and content of the draft National Wild Fisheries Strategy?

Yes

Please Explain: Ayrshire Rivers Trust (ART) suggest that the vision should also include ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainability’ in its themes. Social and economic benefit cannot be developed without first acknowledging and addressing issues linked to conservation and sustainability. Without healthy fish populations there will be no fishing and no benefit. These principles should be detailed within the vision so that the government is seen to be prioritising these as much as economic and social issues. Should effective conservation measures not be found, angling participation for salmon and trout will continue to decline. The strategy should reflect the differences between east and west coast rivers and factors affecting their conservation status/priorities. Unless these are included within the strategy, there document fails to address fundamental issues that should influence the National Strategy.

2 Which of the current areas within the draft Strategy would you prioritise, and why?

2: Theme 1 ‘Protecting and growing the Resource’ should run alongside Theme 2 ‘Science and research’. While it may be beneficial to include citizen science in theme 2, this may be of limited value as the accuracy of any data or results generated may be inconsistent, (similar to the inaccuracies found in catch and release data provided by anglers and owners). Consequently we would include this as a lower priority within partnership working and engagement where there may be benefits realised through increased engagement. We would like to see that the strategy will be adaptive to reflect the changing pressures on fisheries and stocks and include details of the pressures facing our fish and rivers. Other government organisations should be involved in delivering improvements for species and habitats and the strategy should be seen as a guide to the direction and ways in which these agencies can assist with delivering the priorities. e.g. SEPA/SNH should be responsible for delivering improvements through RBMP, WFD, Habitats Directives etc. that should assist to deliver the aims of the wild fisheries strategy and vice a versa.

Chapter 3 – Administration & Management of wild fisheries

3 Do you agree with the proposed high level duties on Scottish Ministers?

Yes

Please Explain: The proposals are similar to powers granted to Ministers in other legislation and provide a reasonable level of accountability and governance.

4 Do you agree that the criteria set out in paragraph 31 are the correct criteria for identifying the number of FMAs?

No

Please Explain: We agree the criteria are appropriate however we feel there may be more factors that should be included and effort must be made to fully investigate all criteria and thinking on the matter. The criteria fail to indicate how these figures (12 – 18 FMA’s) were actually derived e.g. How many catchment units are required to be included in an FMO? What are the biological and geographical factors that influence the total number of FMA’s? How has capacity and skills that are available been assessed and by whom? Who has provided details of the resources within a potential FMA? etc. The answer to these questions should be available. ART certainly haven’t been consulted nor provided any details of their resources and assets. Has the number of still water, coarse fisheries and angling clubs been included within these criteria? Essentially, the number of FMO’s should be determined by a bottom up rather than top down approach but it may be helpful if the government revealed their thinking on the number of FMA’s to help guide those willing to form FMO’s.

5 Do you agree that the legislation should not include a specific requirement to have an FMO in every part of Scotland?

No

Please Explain: ART believes that each area must have suitable and consistent management for the FMO system to be complete. The entire country should to be covered or else the depth of loacal knowledge and volunteers within an area may be lost, should an FMO be appointed from a neighbouring area. The principle of establishing FMO’s to manage local priorities may be acceptable but as yet the means and way this can be achieved appears incomplete and lacking and in Ayrshire at least, there is little obvious support coming from within existing fishery proprietors and clubs (where they have expressed opinions). The Irvine catchment is without a board or effective formal management arrangements and it appears that many anglers and Clubs oppose the idea of an FMO (but not all) largely due to fears over anticipated increased cost of angling participation. Low cost salmon fisheries in Ayrshire may be widely supported by anglers, but can contribute little to managing the resource at the prevailing rates. There are benefits to be achieved by having an overarching management organisation however the FMO proposals lack detail, particularly in relation to funding and consequently are difficult for anglers to support at present. ART believes that without adequate funding provided to allow effective management to take place, there will be no benefit to the reforms.

6 Do you agree with the proposed approach to designation of FMOs?

Yes

Please Explain: However, this relies on a self forming group emerging to develop and provide a business plan and draft Fishery Management Plan ahead of receiving approval. It must be remember that FMO will require the support of unpaid members, thus participation will have to be attractive to those with knowledge of fishing and fisheries. The proposed approach does not guarantee in any way that experienced individuals with local knowledge will come forwards. As yet, there appears a reluctance particularly from boards, anglers, proprietors or perhaps even ART and its staff to take this on due principally to concerns over inadequate funding and a lack of clarity on the proposals (including area and remit). So far, there exists a reluctance to engage from the angling community as a whole. ART expects that whatever group becomes the FMO in Ayrshire, it will struggle to succeed unless the support of anglers is forthcoming and as yet, this support can’t be relied upon. More effort to publicise the benefits of FMO’s and the way they will represent local interests and deliver local priorities is essential and should come from government. ART is an obvious source of expertise, knowledge, experience of fishery management with capacity and possibly resources that would assist with establishing an FMO quickly in Ayrshire. However, without clear and adequate funding being available to deliver the FMO and its aims, then the Trust has a difficult decision ahead. The Trust could bring a degree of support and credibility with it should it feel able to support an FMO but that still has to be decided.

It is interesting to note that the views on charitable status have changed. It would be of interest to learn what advice that SG received from the charity regulator and the reason for the change in position. The fact that charitable status may not be an option could have financial implications and also the way that FMO’s are viewed by potential members and the public.

7 Do you agree with the proposed approach and timeline for approval of local fisheries management plans?

No

Please Explain: We support an evidence based and plan led approach to management however, the timescale of 3 months is inadequate to develop FMPs for areas with numerous catchments or that lack data.

8 Do you agree with the proposed approach to good governance and investigation of FMOs?

Yes

Please Explain: It is appropriate that an FMO may be investigated should it appear not to be achieving its aims and purpose. However, it is essential that those managing FMO’s are aware of the criteria that would warrant investigations and how they will be conducted. Further guidance on compliance issues within sections 11-17 would be welcomed. It is worth noting that unless FMO’s are widely supported, there is a risk that FMO’s will be unsupported and unfairly criticised by anglers and the angling community who are already hostile to the threat of increased costs associated with establishing and managing fisheries/angling (FMOs) and be subjected to unwarranted complaints. The government must ensure adequate protection of those working to deliver FMO aims and objectives and allow adequate time for the new regime to establish, gain support and operate in a transparent manner.

9 We seek your views on the proposed approach to the wild fisheries levy. Please Explain:

Currently, there appears to be a lack of clarity over how levies will be raised and who should contribute. Consequently as yet the proposals appear inadequate and fail to address issues such as …Crown Estates Levies for each salmon caught that discourage honest reporting. Inconsistencies within the valuation system currently make it difficult for clubs to operate and boards to perform. Unless the assessment method is updated and standardised across the country, then the levy will always be seen as an unfair approach. A large proportion of the levy system is based on reported catch data and this is flawed. Levies must be collected from other angling interest as it is unacceptable to penalise riparian owners and use their funds to manage coarse species or still water fisheries. This requires further consideration. There doesn’t appear to be adequate/significant financial value in any fishing other than salmon interests which will make it difficult to envisage how a fair system can be developed to manage all species and habitats. As salmon stocks are declining, it is unreasonable to assume that when faced with falling values and reduced participation, that salmon proprietors should bear the cost of all species management. The levy system currently doesn’t include 2 north Ayrshire salmon rivers and any attempt to include these within the levy system, we expect will be met with fierce resistance and hostility. This needs more clarity and thought. West and east coast rivers are fundamentally different in terms of their fish stocks, run timings and fishing seasons, angling participation and attitudes, ownership, and the value of these fisheries. Values on the west coast are largely far reduced than those on the east and accessibility is increased through the many clubs that exist. Club members desire cheap fishing and Clubs strive to provide this to ensure they retain members. Consequently there is a reluctance to support increased levies by boards or increased club rates to fund fishery management. Typically, the cost of angling on club rather than private waters in Ayrshire is considerably reduced. In turn this contributes to a lack of resources available for fishery management here on the west coast where stocks are most in need of assistance. The issue of fisheries levies is critical to the success of fisheries reforms and as yet there are no obvious solutions being tabled. This should be addressed as a priority and must include a standardized approach to assessment across all beats, catchments, regionally and nationally. Similarly, the issues surrounding Crown Estate fees are not conducive to honest reporting and must also be addressed. Section 21 subsection 1 states that Ministers may provide financial assistance to an FMO. With resistance expected from anglers to any increased costs raised through levies, we anticipate that government assistance as described under section 21 may be required in Ayrshire.

10 Should Scottish Ministers have the power to review the designation of FMO status?

Yes

Please Explain: Yes, subject to the FMO having adequate time to be established and good working practices and staff arrangements to be implemented and the organisation becoming operationally effective. FMOs should have the right to appeal. The reasoning behind reviews should be clear and detailed from the outset.

11 If so, what would be an appropriate period for such a review? Please Explain:

FMO’s must be given adequate opportunity to develop into effective fishery management organisations and each will face their own unique challenges, (some more than others). It is difficult to provide a definitive timescale but it should be at least long enough to remove uncertainties that may be a disincentive to members of an FMO and perhaps more importantly the staff, particularly in terms of job security. A period of no less than 5 years may be acceptable but preferably 10 years to instill confidence ensure the future uptake of opportunities within the FMO network by industry professionals.

12 Do you agree that FMOs should be statutory consultees for fish farming applications?

Yes

Please Explain: As this question suggests, Fish Farming is a major concern to wild fishery managers, proprietors and anglers alike and any development within an FMO’s (FMA) area will be of great concern and must be consulted adequately with wild fish interests. The current system where a local planning authority can decide on the suitability of proposed development doesn’t adequately protect or represent wild fishery interests to the level required especially given the new river classification system based on conservation status where most category 3 rivers occur on the west coast of Scotland and that’s where aquaculture prevails.

13 Should we consider whether FMOs should be statutory consultees for any other types of development?

Yes

Please Explain: Unless adequately resourced, FMO’s will not have sufficient funding to allow them to consider many different developments although ideally they should be. Any operation or development that may affect the viability/integrity/sustainability of rivers and freshwater environments should require consultation with FMO’s. It would be essential that FMO’s are able to comment and influence the final outcome and decision making process but perhaps not necessarily as statutory consultees.

Chapter 4 – Regulation of wild fishing and fisheries

14 Do you agree that local conservation measures, agreed by FMOs at a local level, could be made by the Scottish Ministers without being subject to Parliamentary scrutiny?

Yes

Please Explain: Moving towards an evidence based management system, it is essential that where justified and recommended by an FMO that local conservation measures may be introduced without being subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

15 Do you agree with the approach to conservation regulations?

No

Please Explain: Whilst ART are supportive of the conservation regulations, to date there has been poor communication of conservation requirements to boards and anglers throughout this process and a great deal of support may have been lost through the use of flawed data when determining the conservation status of river districts. It is essential that sound data is used to determine these classifications and an urgent move towards river by river assessment rather than river district assessment is required to restore some credibility to the system.

16 We would welcome any specific comments you have in relation to section 23-32 of the draft provisions.

Comments: There has been poor communication of conservation requirements so far in this process and a great deal of support may have been lost through the use of flawed data when determining the conservation status of river districts. It is essential that sound data is used to determine these classifications and an urgent move towards river by river assessment rather than river district assessment is required to restore some credibility to the system. Trusts biologists have been asked for data and information yet no direct request has been made to boards that may have commissioned this work (or chosen not to). It is essential that the government recognises that Trusts and boards often work independently of each other, particularly where a Trust covers several board and non board areas. It should not be assumed that one can automatically respond on behalf of the other. This is the case in Ayrshire where boards have not been asked to contribute data to inform setting Conservation Limits and refining the process.

Clarity is required on issues surrounding acceptable procedures when anglers capture what they believe to be an escaped farmed salmon. We do not support mandatory release of these fish into our rivers when captured by rod and line.

17 Are there specific examples of issues with the offences in the 2003 Act that we should be aware of in developing the framework for an all species management system?

Yes

Please Explain: The introduction of an offence for taking or killing all freshwater species will remove the ambiguous status currently experienced in many areas. However, with this legislation, there will be an increased requirement for enforcement and an increased cost which will have to be addressed.

Chapter 5 – Enforcement

18 Do you agree that the appointment of water bailiffs/wardens could be for more than one FMO and potentially nationwide?

Yes

Please Explain: However, the appointment of paid bailiffs isn’t straight forwards and maintaining standards must be a priority to ensure a consistent approach. It is essential that Police Scotland and bailiffs cooperate fully to ensure that each are supported by the other but at present this doesn’t appear to be consistent across the whole of Ayrshire.

19 Do you agree that the appointment of bailiffs and wardens should continue to take place at both a local or national level?

Yes

Please Explain: We see value in bailiffs being appointed at both local and national level but that warrants should be issued nationally. We would welcome bailiff’s warrants being issued to cover the whole of Scotland thus allowing suitably trained and qualified individuals to move position easily or interact with neighboring FMO’s. It may be worthwhile considering that a head bailiff / coordinator could be appointed and funded by government to sit within an FMO to manage local bailiffs and fishery protection officers (where only volunteer bailiffs exist due to a lack of resources). The cost of employing managing and equipping bailiffs to the required standard must be able to be met by FMO’s and government must give appropriate consideration to how this will be funded in future. Of course, ART would support the employment of bailiffs should suitably skilled individuals be available. Across Ayrshire, a dedicated force of volunteer amateur bailiffs currently operate. Unless paid professionals can be appointed it is relatively unimportant what they are called. Regardless of the title adopted, those engaged in enforcement should be suitably trained, qualified, remunerated, accountable and responsible to the managing authority.

20 Do you agree that we should consider a new title for the role of water bailiff?

Yes

Please Explain: The title ‘water bailiff’ doesn’t reflect the role adequately. Perhaps ‘Fishery Enforcement Officer’ or ‘Fishery Officer’ would be more appropriate or something that more clearly defines their remit within fishery management. It is important that an FMO in Ayrshire can adequately fund a bailiff force as there will be an increasing enforcement requirement due to the conservation measures that have been introduced.

21 Do you agree that there are advantages in having a second tier of enforcement officer, primarily focussed on checking permits and providing information?

Yes

Please Explain: Unwarranted Club appointed officials could provide a lower level of enforcement, particularly checking permits and providing information. It will be essential that cooperation exists between the two tiers of enforcement. There needs to be clarity over the role and designation of amateur volunteer bailiffs as opposed to paid professionals. Currently, only amateur and voluntary bailiffs exist in Ayrshire and therefore unless paid professionals are funded and engaged, it may be difficult to distinguish this role from unwarranted club appointed officials other than by the holding of a warrant card.

22 What issues in relation to powers and enforcement do you consider are barriers to providing appropriate protection to our wild fisheries and fishing? Please Explain:

Barriers are mainly resource driven for both bailiffs and Police Scotland and therefore, not only FMOs but also Police Scotland must be adequately funded to provide suitable fishery protection (trained, equipped, resourced and able). Without adequate funding to allow recruitment and employment of bailiff professionals, then motivation and quality of the service provided can be difficult to maintain within a volunteer based structure.

Chapter 6 – General

23 Are the terms used throughout the draft provisions clear and unambiguous?

Yes

Please Explain: Those involved in fishery management and those passionate about angling may be willing to work through these documents (and have followed the previous consultations and process) to provide a response, however, many anglers and proprietors haven’t and are disengaged for a multitude of reason. Perhaps this is due to them being unfamiliar with legislative terminology and consultation processes or perhaps they are just totally disinterested.

Chapter 7 – Assessing Impact

24 What do you consider would be the key resource issues for an FMO under the proposed new regulatory structure? Please Explain:

Increased costs associated with staff employment, recruitment, transport, insurance, enforcement, general administration, communications, CPD, H&S compliance, responding to government requirements, etc etc. Currently in Ayrshire, the levy system isn’t applied to all rivers and where it is, there appears to be an undue weighting to inaccurate statistics making the entire system unpopular and possibly unfair. More thought must be given and clarity provided on future funding of FMOs if the new system is to be supported and successful.

25 What other information do we need to consider in developing a BRIA for the Bill when it is laid before the Scottish Parliament? Please Explain:

It would be appropriate to wait until the work referred to in paragraph 74 is available before commenting.

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One Response to ART response to the government consultation on The Draft Provisions for a Wild Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

  1. Michael McCroskie says:

    My two biggest concerns(and there are a few) with the consultation are the possibility to introduce a rod licence and restrictions on methods.
    It was bad enough giving the River Ayr a category 3 status based on flawed data,without introducing further measures such as banning bait fishing or single hooks on spinning lures.Then you have to pay for a rod licence to cover the costs of policing measures that many anglers don’t agree with.