South Scotland

Council terminates lease for stake nets near Annan

stake net Image copyright Chris Newman
Image caption Stake nets are fixed in the ground at right angles to the shore.

Fishermen have been banned from using stake nets in the Solway Firth in an effort to boost salmon numbers in nearby rivers.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has terminated the lease for the fixed nets near Annan.

It followed warnings that the nets may be intercepting salmon destined for the River Eden in Cumbria.

The Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) said the council could be breaching the EU's Habitats Directive.

It threatened a judicial review if the local authority did not agree to halt stake net fishing immediately.

A spokesman for the council said it ended the lease "with much regret".

"However, we take our environmental responsibilities seriously and understood that to continue at this point in time without having conducted a proper scientific assessment with conclusive results would be in breach of the Habitats Directive," he added.

"Our council maintained the stake nets licences for as long as possible in the face of challenge until the legal advice indicated that this position was untenable."

He said the matter will be kept under review and the decision will not affect traditional haaf and poke netting on the River Annan.

Image copyright Salmon and Trout Assocation (Scotland)
Image caption There are fears the stake nets have been intercepting salmon destined for the River Eden in Cumbria

Andrew Graham-Stewart, the director of the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland), welcomed the move by the council.

He said: "Against a background of declining wild salmon stocks across almost all of the North Atlantic, the Solway rivers have been particularly badly affected with precipitous declines.

"The evidence from rod catches is compelling."

The River Annan's rod catch of 317 in 2014 compared to a five-year average of 1,557.

In the Nith in the same year, the rod catch was 520 - significantly lower than the 1,658 average.

Mr Graham-Stewart said the River Eden's rod catch in 2014 was 40% of the five-year average.

He added: "In the circumstances there can now be no justification for any commercial salmon netting in the Solway."

Nick Chisholm, director of the River Annan District Salmon Fisheries Board, said: "I think it's a brave and right decision by Dumfries and Galloway Council. It wasn't an easy one for them to make."

Stake nets are fixed into the ground on parts of the Solway coast. At right angles to the shore, they cover several hundred yards and a number of traps are set into the lines of the net.

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