Last week saw the final week’s salmon fishing on the River Dee for salmon anglers and heralded a large influx of Scandinavian visitors to Deeside to fish and enjoy a week’s holiday in the valley. Not only were there anglers coming to fish, but a film crew also arrived to produce a 55 minute television programme for SVT, the national Television station in Sweden. The producer of the programme Mission Investigate, the Swedish equivalent to the BBC’s Panorama, Mr Sven Bergman arrived with Jan Eliasson to film part of the programme on Deeside. During their stay in Deeside they filmed and interviewed Scandinavian fishermen who were fishing a number of middle Dee fishing beats along with River Dee Ghillies. They also interviewed River Director Mark Bilsby and Fisheries Development Officer Ken Reid. They also filmed in George Strachan’s Store in Aboyne and other Deeside landmarks.
Ken took the opportunity to interview producer Sven Bergman about the purpose of the programme and why they came to Royal Deeside to film. Sven advised that the programme would be an investigation into the Swedish Governments politics towards Baltic Salmon. They would explain the impact high seas netting, long line fishing, coastal netting, trap netting and anglers have on salmon stocks and the terminal decline wild salmon stocks are in. They are trying to research, understand and explain to viewers why everything isn’t working in Sweden and how endangered wild salmon stocks are.
Historically Baltic Salmon stocks in big rivers have been a very important resource; however stocks have collapsed with salmon extinct in many rivers and on other rivers, now on the brink of extinction. To give an example, rivers in Sweden the size of the River Dee are having a run of between 30 and 100 salmon annually, whereas on Deeside the run may be around as much as 50,000 Atlantic salmon. They want to scrutinise the politics that have led to this current situation in Sweden.
When asked why they chose to come and film on Royal Deeside Sven commented ‘You had serious problems, similar to Sweden where your stocks were collapsing in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. You made some incredibly bold and brave decisions to tackle the problem of declining stocks, which were not without controversy. You tackled the problems head on and removed the coastal nets, you introduced a policy of catch and release and have done an incredible amount of work improving riparian habitat for wild salmon stocks ensuring you produce as many juvenile fish as possible.’
Sven then went on to comment about how this impacts on the local economy ’ you have worked collectively in your valley, engaging all the stakeholders and supporting business infrastructure to restore and invigorate a local economy that sustains over 500 jobs. The Dee model shows how angling tourism works successfully and could work in our country. You have best practises here producing results which are the benchmark for our rivers to aspire to. You have long term challenges ahead of you and it is heartening to see your ambitious work programmes over the next 5 years which will continue to help your wild fish stocks grow and sustain your local economy during difficult economic times.’
Sven visited Ballogie beats, Birse, Kincardine, Commonty and chatted at length with the beat Ghillies as well as capturing super imagery of anglers catching and returning salmon for the programme. I visited the group at roll call outside the Potarch Hotel where anglers gathered to receive guidance from Ghillies Sean Stanton and Ian Fraser along with fishing agent/party leader Lars Terkildsen. Lars had been pivotal in the production of the Dee section of the programme by explaining the attraction of the River Dee to the production team some time ago and worked with them organising this with the help of the fishing beats/estates. Lars was thrilled to hear that the crew would come over with his group of 18 anglers who caught 195 salmon during their weeks stay. Sven remarked about how exciting it was to be on the river bank seeing so many salmon leaping and splashing about.
The programme will be produced and broadcast sometime in November in Sweden and will be available on the internet. Anglers from Scandinavian countries come to Royal Deeside annually in ever growing numbers and contribute very significantly to our economy, especially during the shoulder periods of spring and autumn when there are limited numbers of other tourists coming to Deeside. Angling Tourism in Deeside is estimated to contribute around £12 million to the local economy.