Highland business leaders anger over strict new fishing rules

The River Moriston

Anglers and prominent business leaders in the Highlands have criticised Scottish Government efforts to tighten-up fishing rules.

Holyrood ministers are introducing new regulations designed to improve conservation in Scotland’s wild fisheries.

The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board (DSFB), as well as the Beauly district, said yesterday that the changes would mean mandatory “catch-and-release” would be in force in their areas from April 1.

The groups are urging ministers to reconsider the categorisation, highlighting data which it said showed fish counts in the River Moriston were the highest for more than three decades.

Inverness businessmen Donald Macdonald and David Sutherland, who have neighbouring stretches of the river, are also convinced that the Scottish Government has used inaccurate data in reaching its verdict.

Mr Macdonald, chairman of Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, said: “The people who are commissioned by the government to carry out this study have produced recommendations clearly have no feeling, knowledge or idea about salmon fishing.”

Mr Sutherland, whose business interests include hotels and holiday lodges, said: “There has been a rushed process using inaccurate data to drive down the designation of the Ness system.”

Chris Conroy, director of the Ness DSFB, said: “The Scottish Government analysis, based on rod catches, suggests that the conservation status of the Moriston is poor.

“We believe that the use of rod catch data alone to determine conservation limits on the River Moriston is not appropriate.”

The Beauly district have raised similar concerns, as have the Scottish Conservatives, who claim the measures are “draconian”.

The Scottish Government has said a range of measures are being introduced in order to improve the conservation status of salmon by managing the pressure of exploitation through fishing.

They are designed to complement, not replace, other management activities being undertaken at local, national and international level in the interests of conservation.