Scottish Land & Estates said today that proposals to develop a new national body to supervise fishing on Scotland's rivers should build on - and not jeopardise - the 'excellent' management of many fisheries at local level.
In its submission to the Scottish Government's consultation on wild fisheries reform, Scottish Land & Estates said: "We support an accountable and inclusive system to manage all species to ensure the conservation of wild fish and their habitats.
"There is still work for the Scottish Government to do on the practicalities. We believe such a system could work but should not put at risk the current knowledge, enthusiasm and funding which comes from local governance.
"River proprietors are engaged and want the best for their rivers and Scottish wild fisheries as a whole. Sound wild fisheries management has conservation, social and economic ramifications. “
In its submission Scottish Land & Estates states:-
Many of Scotland’s rivers are currently well managed under the current system and succeed in raising the funds required to operate.
Current fisheries boards provide conservation measures, employment, encourage new participants, recognise local knowledge, and produce transparent reports of their work. Scottish Land & Estates supports the government’s emphasis on retaining these benefits of a decentralised system.
River owners have concerns that any form of centralisation, including a national unit, could disrupt the success of some rivers. Owners do, however, recognise the role a central body could play in coordination and strategic development of wild fisheries work which meets national and international commitments.
Scottish Land & Estates recommends a 'bottom up' approach whereby local priorities and plans are used to inform and create the national priorities and plan. Existing powers which boards have to conduct enquiries, enforce offences, and generally carry out their function to protect the fisheries, must be retained at a local level.
Scotland currently has a decentralised system which delivers excellent fisheries management in many areas. This new system must not be a centralised system dressed up as a decentralised system.
The local setting and collection of funds is a strength of the current system. As long as fisheries management organisations can evidence they are meeting priorities there should be no issue with funds being collected and spent locally.
Scottish Land & Estates is supportive of initiatives which will encourage young and new people into fishing. We suggest this would be best achieved by local programmes within in national marketing strategy.
We do not believe that access to fishing is currently restricted. There are lots of opportunities to fish for a variety of species, facilitates, locations and price on offer. More work could be done to encourage young and new people to take up fishing and awareness of the opportunities available could be raised through improved marketing. There is a role for a national strategy to coordinate this.