Scotland’s biggest salmon netting company pleads guilty to wildlife crime – for fishing outwith permitted hours

Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) welcomes Usan’s admission of serious breaches of fishery regulations.

The Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)) has welcomed the admission on Tuesday at Forfar Sheriff Court by Usan Salmon (Scotland’s largest salmon netting company) that it had committed serious breaches of fishery regulations at its netting stations south of Montrose. The company, whose Directors include David Pullar and George Pullar, entered guilty pleas to several charges of netting outwith permitted hours during 2013. It also pled guilty to additional charges for similar offences in 2014.

The relevant salmon legislation requires, in the interests of conservation, that no salmon netting occurs between 6 pm on Fridays and 6 am on Mondays (“the weekly close time”).

Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), commented:

“We welcome Usan’s admission that it has been fishing illegally. Salmon runs are severely depleted and it is more important than ever that those with netting rights exercise them responsibly and certainly within the law. Maximising illegal exploitation by systematically ignoring the weekly close time is indefensible. Such activity amounts to wildlife crime – pure and simple.”

Sentencing of Usan will take place following a proof of mitigation hearing scheduled for March 31.

Mixed stocks coastal netting stations indiscriminately catch any salmon passing by, regardless of where they are heading or the strength of the various populations in their home rivers. They are completely non-selective, making the management of individual river stocks almost impossible. The Scottish Government’s 2001 Green Paper on Freshwater Fish and Fisheries stated that “the exploitation of salmon outside their river of origin is widely accepted as contrary to good salmon management, primarily on the grounds that it does not discriminate between separate river populations and therefore severely inhibits monitoring and optimum management of exploitation of stocks on a catchment basis”. In addition, 17 rivers in Scotland are designated as Special Areas of Conservation, part of the Natura 2000 network – a series of internationally important wildlife sites throughout the European Union. The random nature of mixed stock fisheries makes it extremely difficult to determine the impact of such fisheries on these important conservation sites.