Conservation Regulations

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On the 25th October 2018 the Scottish Government launched a 28-day consultation on the Conservation of Salmon Assessment for the 2019 fishing season (ending Friday 23 November 2018). This included significant changes to the proposed gradings for Ness system.

These regulations were laid in the Scottish Parliament on the 21st February 2019 and will come into effect from the 1st April 2019 (the Scottish Government announcement can be found here).  Please note that the Conservation of Salmon (Annual Close Times and Catch and Release) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 prohibits the retention of any salmon before the 31st March (inclusive).

Marine Scotland has assessed that the River Ness (non-SAC) has a 92.04 per cent probability of meeting its ‘egg requirement’ over a five-year period, taking it to ‘Grade 1’ status (compared to a 71.56 per cent probability and ‘Grade 2’ status in 2018). Furthermore, the River Moriston (SAC) has been assessed as having a 94.50 per cent probability, also taking it to ‘Grade 1’ status (compared to just a 0.5 per cent probability and ‘Grade 3’ status in 2018). The Ness DSFB has challenged previous assessments for the River Moriston, however the proposed 2019 assessment is much more in line with our own calculations.

The significant difference between the 2018 and 2019 assessments is the result of changes in the methodology used to assess conservation status in two areas (estimating the egg requirements for each river and estimating numbers of returning adults). These areas were updated partially in response to comments received through the public consultation and more widely through those from Fishery Boards and Trusts.


Marine Scotland advise that for ‘Grade 1’ river systems exploitation is sustainable; therefore, no additional management action is required. It is important to note that this recognises the effectiveness of existing ‘non-statutory’ local management interventions, e.g. local ‘Salmon Conservation Policies’.

The Scottish Government’s Conservation of Salmon assessment sets an ‘egg requirement’ for each river system and estimates whether or not this requirement is met. The egg requirement relates to the number of eggs required for every square metre wetted area of salmon habitat. This approach aims to maintain the basic sustainability of a stock, rather than maximising juvenile output. A sustainable ‘Grade 1’ salmon population may not therefore necessarily equate to a productive salmon fishery.

Given an overall trend for decreasing catches in the Ness district, it is essential that the exploitation of salmon is limited to protect the long-term future of the fishery. Consequently, the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board’s Salmon Conservation Policy for the 2019 season will contain the following key elements:

  • Catch and release of all salmon caught before the 1st July as a ‘spring’ conservation measure;
  • From 1st July to the end of the season, all hen fish of any size and all cock fish over 8 pounds (69cm/27 inches) must be released to protect summer and autumn multi-sea-winter salmon;
  • Only one cock fish weighing 8 pounds (69cm/27 inches) or less may be retained per angler per week (even if fishing multiple beats), with a maximum of two per season;
  • All coloured and unseasonal fish must be released, providing protection for ‘spring’ salmon throughout the season; and
  • Anglers should not fish with worm anywhere in the district before the 1st of July or after the 31st August as fish captured using this method are more likely to be deeply hooked (reducing their chances of survival on release).

It is hoped that these measures will allow us to protect and enhance the diversity of salmon populations in the Ness district, whilst permitting the sustainable exploitation of a limited number of fish and maximising the economic benefits of the fishery. The full ‘2019 Salmon Conservation Policy’ can be found here.


Sea Trout GuidelinesFurther to the above, it is clear that our sea trout catches are in continued decline and at extremely low levels. As such, we have produced new ‘Sea Trout Conservation Guidelines’. This aims to raise awareness of key sea trout facts, their legal protection, current status and what anglers can do to help (click on picture to view or download).


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