Greenland, whose coastal waters play host to Scottish and other European wild salmon during their marine migrations, has announced that it will increase its landings of salmon from some 20 tonnes to 55 tonnes annually through the unilateral introduction of a new 35 tonnes “internal quota” for use in fish factories. The move by Greenland, which was forecast by the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) [S&TA(S)] over a year ago as an inevitable consequence if the Scottish Government maintained its support for coastal netting in home waters, was announced at the recent meeting in Ireland of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO).

Greenland’s decision to increase the exploitation of wild salmon has important implications for Scotland’s salmon populations, many of which migrate to and feed off Greenland.

Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), commented: “In spring 2012 Leif Fontaine, president of the Fishermen and Hunters Organization in Greenland, made it abundantly clear that his members were no longer prepared to accept the inequity of being denied the opportunity to catch salmon commercially if other nations, notably Scotland, continued to encourage commercial fisheries for those same fish when they arrived back in their home waters. At the time we highlighted the implications to Scottish Government, which not only dismissed our concerns but also since then has had the insensitivity to preside over an actual expansion of coastal salmon netting. In recent years all other NASCO countries have been either reducing or stopping coastal salmon netting altogether. Scottish Government even arranged a £100,000 grant for Scotland’s largest netting company and sponsored the successful application to the EU by the netsmen for Protected Food Name status for ‘Wild Scottish Salmon’, which will inevitably increase demand.”

Paul Knight, CEO of the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) who attended the NASCO meeting and has been elected Chairman of the European NASCO NGOs, said: “We take no satisfaction that the concerns we voiced last year have now been vindicated. Scotland is the only country in the northern hemisphere where coastal salmon netting is actually increasing in intensity. The Scottish Government has ignored its international obligations to protect wild salmon stocks from greater levels of indiscriminate exploitation. There can be no doubt that Scotland’s cavalier approach to salmon exploitation has been a significant factor in Greenland’s decision to re-open its commercial salmon fishery. Furthermore, if Scotland and Norway do not act more quickly to limit their Mixed Stocks Net Fisheries, then Greenland is likely to grant itself an even greater tonnage and re-develop a full commercial fishery. Scotland’s decision makers need to wake up to the fact that if Greenland does catch significantly more fish, then the Faroese will almost certainly follow suit and there will be precious few Scottish salmon left to manage.”

Mr Knight continued: “S&TA is adamant, in line with the international consensus, that any exploitation of salmon should be limited to individual rivers where local management can determine the number of fish that may be killed sustainably based on the best scientific evidence. The NASCO guidelines are explicit that salmon netting should only be exercised if there is clear evidence that the individual river stocks being exploited are numerous enough for it to be sustainable. No such evidence exists to support Scotland’s coastal netting.”

S&TA (Scotland)