Petition to Suspend River Categorisation in Scotland - 2

by Roger Dowsett - 16:04 on 01 February 2018

River Alness Conservation Status

We have recently received informal confirmation that the River Alness has been designated with a conservation status of Category 3 for 2018, which means 100% catch & release.

In early October, in the consultation period following the provisional categorisation, the fishery board submitted a robust representation to Marine Scotland Science (MSS). This showed in detail the correlation of catches to river level on the Alness, and the effects of 4 dry summers, and also the consequences of those dry summers to fishing effort.

After more than 3 months, there has been no official response from MSS to our objection, just an informal indication a couple of weeks ago from the fishery board that no changes would be made to conservation status, and the Alness would remain Cat 3.

I agree with the general aims of Scottish Government, but believe the river categorisation model is deeply flawed, and Category 3 designation harmful to our sport, unless it can be proven to be absolutely necessary. In the case of the Alness only 31 salmon were killed on the entire river last season by anglers, only 28 in 2016, so what positive outcome is this legislation likely to achieve?

The Lynching of the Alness (and other rivers)
On Monday, I went to a meeting of the Alness Angling Club also attended by a representative of the MSS unit that makes these recommendations to Scottish Government. His presentation showed a lack of familiarity with the key points of our representation, and made clear that no consideration has been given to any part of it. It appears the consultation period was no more than a box-ticking exercise.

In fact, the representative gave his prediction for our 2019 status based on the 2017 catch data (submitted by Alness A.C, and myself). His reason, that we would lose 2012 (a good year) from the 5 year average, to be replaced by 2017. This was incriminating on 2 levels:

1. No consideration or mitigation was being given to the effect of droughts on 4 of those 5 years as demonstrated in our representation.

2. The death sentence was being handed out with no knowledge or evaluation of other available data, and with only a single piece of circumstantial evidence (the catch return).

This revealed that despite their repeated claims to use 'all available data', this is an ‘alternative fact’, and the catch numbers are all that counts! This ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to categorising all of Scotland’s rivers is seriously flawed, particularly with regard to spate rivers, and will result in irrevocable harm to the Alness and other rivers, and in time to the sport of salmon fishing.

What To Do Next?

If you agree that the current methods of designating conservation status are inadequate and harmful to our sport, then I urge you to do the following:

Please go to

and sign the petition "Roseanna Cunningham MSP: Scottish Government should abandon river categorisation scheme until it has reliable data"

Please see my previous blog entry for the reasons I signed this petition.

Comment from Alister McFarlane at 18:37 on 01 February 2018.
We need something in place
Comment from Roger at 09:08 on 03 February 2018.
I agree, but why not let the fishery boards propose management plans based on evaluation of their local knowledge and all data available, for approval by Marine Scotland?
Comment from Alastair Gibson at 17:52 on 04 February 2018.
Thank you for all your hard work Roger - I've seen the incredibly detailed information you've compiled! I can't remember the last time I killed a salmon on the Alness but it's nice to think that the opportunity is there to take 'one for the pot' occasionally!

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