Joan McAlpine MSP says she has “not lost hope” that a way can be found to preserve the ancient tradition of haaf netting in Annan.
The tradition, which dates back to Viking Times, is affected by measures to conserve wild salmon which scientists say is threatened in Scottish rivers such as The Annan where the government plan to introduce a three year ban on killing salmon.
Now the government has indicated that it will compensate angling clubs affected by the changes and Ms McAlpine said she hoped this indicated a willingness to compromise in other areas.
She has written to the environment minister Aileen McLeod on behalf of the Annan haaf netters and will meet her this week to discuss the matter.
In her latest letter to the minister Ms McAlpine repeats her request that the haaf netters be treated as a “heritage fishery” which is itself in need of conservation.
She also points out the potential loss to Annan Common Good Fund and asks that it could be considered for compensation in the same way as angling clubs.
The intervention is the South Scotland SNP MSP’s latest volley on behalf of the Annan netters. She last year gained cross party support for a motion asking for the netters to be exempted and made a similar argument in her submission to the Wild Fisheries Review which resulted in the current regulations, which are due to come into effect on 1 April.
Ms McAlpine said today:
“I met the representatives of the Royal Burgh of Annan Fishermen’s Association this weekend and have not lost hope that we can reach some kind of compromise and I am seeing the minister this week to discuss where we are. The minister has already responded to representations by announcing compensation for angling clubs and other measures.
“I strongly believe in the preservation of human culture as well as fish and the Solway haaf netters are themselves an endangered species. There is also the issue of the Common Good and I asked that compensation be considered in the same way as for angling clubs. However if that compensation is channelled through the council for legal reasons I have pointed out that it must be ring-fenced for Annan Common Good.”
Ms McAlpine added:
“The minister is in a difficult position in that she must adhere to international conservation obligations even if it means making unpopular decisions. Nobody disputes that Atlantic salmon is threatened – they just dispute the causes of its demise. I welcome the flexibility that the minister has shown to anglers and hope that is a positive signal for other groups too.”