Letter: Mammals and fish at risk from drift nets

Sir: The response by the National Rivers Authority to the Government's invitation to submit proposals for the phasing out of the North-east drift net fishery has been greeted with dismay by the members of this and other organisations concerned with the safeguarding of game fisheries and angling. We have long argued that the existence of an interceptory drift-net fishery for salmon and sea trout, using monofilament nets, is a national scandal and is inimical to the good husbandry and sound management of a precious natural resource.

Over the last 20 years catches of Atlantic salmon have plummeted by 80 per cent. We would be the first to agree that at least part of the cause of this decline may be the result of actions and circumstances far removed from our own shores and possibly beyond the control of man. Nevertheless, at such a time it behoves us to do everything in our power to safeguard the precious remaining stock.

The National Rivers Authority envisages that the run-down of this drift-net fishery by natural wastage, and under existing legislation, will take 30 years, with a 50 per cent reduction in 10 years. We believe that a shorter period should be considered and that any necessary legislation to bring this about should be speedily enacted. We understand that the board of the National Rivers Authority would also favour an earlier cessation of the fishery, if the Government would so direct them.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is no doubt heavily involved in the revision of the Common Fisheries Policy during the UK Presidency of the European Community. He should also be looking to put our own house in order as far as coastal fisheries for salmon and sea trout are concerned.

Yours sincerely,

JAMES FERGUSON

Director

The Salmon & Trout Association

London, EC4

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