The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board Triennial elections are now complete except for the election of the Convenor. Are we pleased with the outcome? No, not really. There have been changes, with new faces elected and we wish these newly elected members all the very best in their new roles. There is much to be done in the Tay system and we need a fully functioning, committed, Board.
Of course, we were disappointed in not being co-opted onto the Board. Disappointed, but not surprised. Over the past 2 years we have attempted to become more interactive with the Board and other agencies. We have asked legitimate questions about issues and areas of concern on our river. However, some of the outgoing Board took exception to our questioning and approach. In particular, the outgoing Convenor (who has been re-elected to the Board, unfortunately) publicly branded us as untrustworthy and troublemakers. This is his description of an organisation which has donated tens of thousands of pounds to the Hatchery and works tirelessly to ensure its success. In other words, send us money but know your place and don’t dare question us! All we want to have is a voice. We have knowledge, experience and a vision for the complete river system. We do not represent one particular beat, or one particular river. We see merit in ensuring that the Tay, Eden, Earn, Ericht, Tummel, Lyon, Lochay, Dochart and Loch Tay are all included in the mix.
We want the Board to be open and transparent, virtues which have been lacking in the past. Even now, the voting numbers per candidate in the Triennial elections have not been released. Why? We expected to see the results almost immediately and can see no reason why they cannot be released. In an attempt to have the transparency we all want we have submitted a request under Freedom of Information (FOI) to the Clerk and expect an answer in early January.
The next milestone in the elections is the election of the new Convenor. This election is from votes of the elected upper and lower river proprietors together with the votes of the co-optees. We have no idea who wishes to stand as convenor from the elected Board, but we would urge the voting Board members to vote for someone who can bring the Board into the 21st century, ensure open and transparent Board operations, and encourage open communications with all stakeholders. We need a new face who can lead the Board, and forge professional relationships with Government organisations which may well have a different agenda to that of the Board. Most of all we need a Convenor who believes in and will fight for our Hatchery. We await the result with interest and with some trepidation.
The virus does not go away, and, indeed, increases its grip in many areas. The Scottish Government restrictions are necessary, and we must ensure we all follow them. Some disruption to the start of the season looks to be inevitable, although the rule restricting travel to people’s local authority area is better than the five-mile rule. Let us hope the vaccines continue to roll out!
Marine Scotland has resurrected the consultation on the Wild Salmon Stocking Policy and held a first Online meeting earlier this month. Papers were issued to support the meeting. The MS paper was some 25 pages – around half of which comprised references to scientific papers which do not wholeheartedly support stocking…….!! This is a difficult topic and we need both sides of the argument to understand each other’s views. We believe that the Board has managed stocking on the Tay and tributaries very well – we know the river, we have our own policy, and our hatchery is world leading with its kelt reconditioning programme. We feel that until the Tay system is clear of barriers and pressures our hatchery must continue. Yes, there are scientific arguments against stocking but there are also arguments for providing hope for the river. Taking away hope might have a devastating effect on our river. We ask the new Board members to actively support Dr Summers in any consultation and ensure ALL sides of the argument are aired.
Stocking Policy Petition
When the MS stocking policy was first aired in 2019, the TGA was in discussion with Simon Dryden of Marine Scotland. We were horrified to see a policy which seemed to be ready for release but had no consultation. We were determined to challenge this and, in concert with other rivers, we began to formulate a strategy to counter the pure science and try to expose positive work on stocking. A Seminar with Throstur Ellidason, from Iceland, and Scotland’s Bob Kindness was planned for October 2019 but was shelved when the Stocking Policy was implemented without full consultation that October. The TGA’s John Ross felt that time was running out and suggested we go straight to a Petition to the Scottish Government.
We approached the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (who are well versed in such protocols) with a view to having them manage the petition. It was submitted in the summer and in late October the Public Petitions Committee agreed that the subject was important and should involve all relevant stakeholders. The petition has been left open and the Committee will write to the Scottish Government seeking details and update on further discussions and consultations on the issue.
The TGA wishes everyone connected to the Tay System the very best Christmas possible and a successful, healthy 2021!