Scotland’s biggest wild salmon netting company sentenced for wildlife crime – fishing illegally

S&TA(S) hopes the level of fine will act as a deterrent against future breaches of the law

The Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)) has welcomed the sentencing today (August 20) at Forfar Sheriff Court of Usan Salmon (Scotland’s largest salmon netting company) following serious breaches of fishery regulations at its netting stations south of Montrose and on the north Aberdeenshire coast. The company, whose Directors include George Pullar and his brother David, had earlier entered guilty pleas to several charges of netting outwith permitted hours during 2013 and 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”).

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TA(S), commented:

“We welcome the fact that Usan has been fined a substantial sum, £7,000, for fishing illegally. The weekend ban on netting was introduced many years ago to protect wild salmon stocks, and to allow at least some of them a clear run to spawn. In the face of diminishing stocks, it is even more important now that these conservation measures are not abused. The offences committed constitute serious wildlife crime.”

Mr Graham-Stewart continued: “Considering the potential revenue that the company is likely to have received from the illegal fishing, we would advocate that the authorities should now seek to determine just how many of the 16,000 or so salmon declared caught by Usan south of Montrose and in north Aberdeenshire in 2013 and 2014 were taken illegally. By fishing outwith permitted hours Usan is likely to have increased substantially their revenue and we hope this will now be the subject of appropriate investigation under Proceeds of Crime legislation.”

Salmon runs have fallen dramatically in recent years. Marine Scotland Science said in January 2015: “The overall strength of the Scottish salmon stock (all populations combined) has declined markedly in the last fifty years due to increased mortality at sea”. In order to regulate and thus limit salmon exploitation, Scottish Government is currently proposing the early introduction of a scheme under which the killing of salmon will only be permitted under licence, together with a ban on the killing of salmon outside estuary limits.