Rafts Conference 2007

Feedback re Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) conference.

 Please find my feedback regarding recent Rafts conference held at the Birnam Institute on March 9th 2007.

 This is a personal observation I apologise for anything that I have missed, misunderstandings or misinterpretations. I have presented my own opinions at the end.

The meeting was introduced by Roger Brooke chairman of RAFTS


Rafts is a charity to look after all species and achieving biodiversity is a key aim. By doing so the viability of Atlantic salmon in Scotland will be increased and secured for the future.

The important objectives for the near future include



*Flow of information

*Codes of Conduct

*Land and freshwater


*Education and Public awareness

Sarah Bayley presented the ambitious and exciting programme of work for RAFTS in  2007 which included,

*Plans to work with SEERAD and to be involved with current and future consultations including the recent Freshwater and Fisheries bill.

*Plans to develop a Fisheries Research  Questionnaire to define a best way forward.

*£ 131 816 was allocated in 2006 to various projects among the 19 Members

*Publicity and fundraising are key areas

*Support of SNAP, an initiative to encourage young anglers.

*Consultation continuing between industry and LANTRA

*All species biodiversity is key in achieving support for activities

*OSCR approval has been gained and Rafts is now on a sound footing but needs                 continued support.

 Andrew Wallace of the Association of Fisheries Boards introduced

Richard Slaskey, from the Scottish executive and responsible for the recent Freshwater and Fisheries bill.

Fisheries management

Richard Slaskey called for a change to current management to establish an appropriate up to date management system that meets the needs of a modern more environmentally aware and sustainable Scotland.

Role of District salmon Boards

It is a cause for concern that the boards are narrowly focused on the needs of salmon. There may be a clash between boards and the desire to focus on biodiversity with regard to progressing habitat management plans. It is imperative to the success of  fisheries management that there is multi species management. ( The logical outcome is that salmon would benefit from such an approach and that this is the right way to go to assure greatest utility of Scotland’s natural living resources.)  

Access to Fishing

Access to fishing has been identified as a problem and priority by Scottish Executive.

Andrew Wallace pointed out that the information on access has improved

There is a need for Legislation to catch up with the needs of a modern Scotland.

Angling for Change document used as an example of co operation between Anglers and the public.

Aquaculture and Freshwater Fisheries bill mentioned as key initiative and part of strategic review of freshwater fisheries.

Richard Slaskey introduced his view of the strategic framework directive

Strategic Reviews

There are 4 strategic reviews / areas for review



Inshore fisheries



The Framework sets the vision.



First step is to define the context. How science and institutions can move to a better future. Where are the gaps. What don’t we know? What are the priorities for action, what timescales are needed . What form should discipline and scrutiny take.


Ownership and Sustainability

Who owns the document?? The steering group owns the document.

Need for facilitation. The experience of aquaculture needs to broaden out.

Need to write a vision for the future to consider the three pillars of sustainability

Environmental, Economic, Social


Priorities for action need to be selected from 50 to a working priority and acted upon

Currently the document in draft form and work in progress.

Fisheries forum to set Area management agreements

Best practice to define the best outcomes for aquaculture and wild fishing. ( Commercial fishing Industry and discussions re Marine parks etc)

 Anne Marie Mc Iver Western Isles Regional Development Officer

Some of the topics presented included

Tripartite working group came up with some ideas

Single year management plans

Synchronised sea lice treatments whether with wrasse or chemicals

Consideration of wild smolt run timings

Nature frequency and quantity of fish farm escapes

Strict adherence to disease control measures


It was raised as question that farmed smolts pose as big a threat to native stocks as adult spawning fish.

 Management agreements

Management agreements are being established or are already in place between aqua and wild interests within the various districts.

Scotland’s economy may well depend upon an appropriate balance between aqua and wild.

It is vital to take stakeholders along in planning process to avoid costly back trackings.

Professor Chris Todd St Andrews University

Porfessor Todd gave presented his research data on the analysis of research for Strathy point netting station. He claimed that he is not a salmon biologist but more of an ecologist / scientist. He thinks that the problems are lees to do with sea lice and more to do with oceanic conditions. He aimed to communicate realities and facts. Basically the scientific observations indicate that salmon in 2005 were 24% underweight.

( Observed / expected x 100)

The data presented excludes 2006 data.

There are plans to publish data in a key scientific journal in July 2007( science / nature )

It is generally thought that MSW fish are present in Greenland waters and that 1SW fish are present in the North Sea.

Strathy point data is unique due to wide stock. I.e. indiscriminate catching.

60 cms predicted standard for fish length

Decreased fat content of fish over recent years and general condition deterioration since about 2000.

Finding mirror the conditions of fish on the River Esks.

Data 2/3 correlated to hotspots and observed increased temperatures in the North Sea.

Probable consequences for egg deposition as fat content and size of fish effect egg carrying capacity.

Dick Shelton ( Atlantic salmon Trust) pointed out from the floor that there are big numbers of wild fish in the North Atlantic . Need to consider the impacts of ranching, escapes disease , etc. Deep red colouration of some fish is due to poor condition and due to mobilisation of Xantines.

Andrew Thin SNH  

Gave a presentation re SNH role in the development of natural living resources in Scotland and the key points are presented below.

*SNH is involved in National park Authority.

*Scotland’s natural heritage is crucial in decision making.  

*We can benefit form our national heritage as can the people of Scotland.

*Call to do more; effectively and efficiently.

*The economy matters, from food to clothing to a vibrant healthy sustainable  Scotland.

*The importance of protecting Scotland’s natural heritage should not be overlooked.

*Tourism, Field Sports, Fish, fishing all make a vital contribution.

*Clever young people chose to live here in Scotland and in highlands because it is the place to be.

*We want mobile labour that wants to live here.

*Activities matter. Being a competitive Scotland matters.

*Need to capitalise on the natural resources which are abundant or which should be abundant in Scotland. Makes sense to look after our natural assets, protect them and develop them for the greater good.  

*Need to enhance and increase access and enable people to enjoy.

*Quality of life / Quality of living outdoor recreation

*There is therefore an important social dimension to the work of SNH

*Scotland is the green Gym.

*Regional economic asset.

*A National resource and Natural Living Asset .

*There is a role in re-habilitation and quality of life and can affect the competitiveness of Scotland.  

*SNH is not so much a regulator, as an advisor.

*Works by management agreements.

*Public servant role.

*SNH needs to do what the people who pay our wages want  ie the taxpayer.

*Need to recognise array of interest groups.

*Rivers don’t manage themselves, people do.

*Salmon in the classroom initiative deserves particular recognition.

*Rafts has a leadership role.

*SNH aims to further the interests of the Scottish people.

*SNH is a provider of science and plays an important function in promoting biodiversity.

Dr Ronald Campbell , The Tweed Foundation  

Gave a fascinating presentation regarding the Sea Trouts of Tweed. Bi centenary year. The Tweed commissioners represent the oldest fisheries research organisation.

There are many different and diverse stocks of sea trout in the river tweed.

Fisheries Research Services (FRS),

Jim Middlemass and Jim Raffell

Interesting research projects presented regarding the migrations of Sea trout in and around sea lochs in Torridon and Loch Sheildaig. It is hoped that the research will continue and led to a fruitful sustainable habitat. This is a 9 year study.

Dr Shona Marshall, West Surtherland Fisheries Trust

gave an interesting presentation regarding the diet of sea trout

and identified crucial benthic fauna structure using beam trawls.  The project identified key components of the holistic eco system that provides essential sea trout habitat and aspects of their diet. It is hoped that this research will indicate the needs of a productive ecosystem to support a sustainable habitat.

Eric Verspoor  FRS presented key work in Genetic marking and identified genetic markers for fish of different origin and also the genetic variability and dynamics essential to gain greater understanding of conservation limits. A fascinating programme of work that has the potential to fully understand the genetic diversity and salmon population structures required to sustain salmon stocks.

Peter Minting of Ayrshire rivers Trust

presented on the ARC project which aims to further identify key genetic markers in addition to the work of NASCO’s SALSEA project.

Iain McMyn and Roger Knight of Spey DSFB and Research Trust

presented their work regarding Marine issues including seal predation of Atlantic salmon and SAC for Bottle Nose Dolphins.  

My view

An excellent conference and I am very encouraged by the good turnout, professional organisation, speakers and the scientific presentations. Promotion of scientific data and scientific discipline provides an excellent basis for management decision making.

Fishery mangers and scientists now need to work together while keeping anglers and those with fishing interests informed as stakeholders to ensure the best sustainable outcome for fisheries and anglers. The work of RAFTS will be a vital cog in the wheel to ensure greater sustainability of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland.      

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

Natural Living Assets


19 Swanston Gardens


Eh10 7DJ

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