The enforcement of the law relating to salmon and freshwater fishing in Scotland is facilitated by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003.
There are a range of offences set out in the body of the Act. A general list of salmon and freshwater fisheries offences is available, as fisheries offences are the most common form of wildlife crime. However, the penalties available to authorities have not been reviewed for some time. Scottish ministers committed to review this position at the time of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 as it did not cover fishing offences.
District salmon fishery boards (DSFBs) have statutory powers and duties to protect and improve salmon fisheries within their legally-defined salmon fishery districts. This includes powers to raise money to fund fisheries management (through a levy system) and to appoint water bailiffs.
Water bailiffs can be appointed by Scottish ministers, generally in places where DSFBs do not exist. Through exercising the powers conferred by the 2003 Act to prevent the illegal taking of salmon or trout. Powers extend only to the waters in respect of the fishery district within which they are appointed, but not to any adjoining districts.
Water bailiffs appointed by Scottish ministers may:
- examine any dam, fixed engine or obstruction, or any lade, and for that purpose enter on any land
- stop and search any boat which is used in fishing or any boat which there is reasonable cause to suspect of containing salmon or trout
- search and examine nets or other instruments used in fishing or any basket, pocket or other receptacle capable of carrying fish, which there is reasonable cause to suspect of containing salmon or trout illegally taken
- seize any fish, instrument or article, boat or vehicle liable to be forfeited in pursuance of the 2003 Act
- detain any person found committing salmon fishery offences
Bailiffs appointed by DSFBs have similar powers of entry, search, seizure and detainment as those granted by Scottish ministers. However, their powers extend to adjoining salmon fishery districts as well as to the one in which they are appointed.
Candidates must be recommended for appointment by an appropriate nominating association and, through them, provide a disclosure of unspent criminal history. All bailiffs must undergo training provided by the Institute of Fisheries Management. Water bailiffs who meet the criteria for appointment are issued with a warrant card through their nominating association. The production of a valid warrant card is sufficient authority for the exercise of their powers.
It is an offence for any person to obstruct a water bailiff in the exercise of their powers
Scottish ministers may appoint water wardens in order to enforce the provisions of protection orders. Candidates must be recommended for appointment by an appropriate nominating association and, through them, provide a disclosure of unspent criminal history. Those who meet the criteria for appointment are issued with a warrant card.
Wardens may enquire of any person as to their legal right or written permission to fish in any waters covered by the protection order. In situations where a warden has reasonable cause to suspect a person does not have legal right or written permission, they may request written evidence to the contrary to be produced within 14 days. A warden has the right to enter any land in the vicinity of waters covered by the protection order for the purposes of exercising their powers.
It is an offence to wilfully obstruct a warden to exercise the powers conferred upon them.