Wild Fisheries Reform: a response to the report of the Wild Fisheries Review

The paper sets out the Government’s response to the independent Wild Fisheries Review and seeks views on a number of broad policy options for the reform of salmon and freshwater fisheries management.

Stakeholders are invited to share views and contribut

Chapter 2 - Scottish Government response

21. The Scottish Government is committed to reforming wild fisheries management. The WFR report contains helpful recommendations to guide the development of a new management system and we intend to work with the sector and all those interested in wild fish and fisheries to take forward a programme of reform.

22. We do not set out to respond to the WFR recommendations individually; rather, we are building our response, and this consultation, around fundamental management principles and key themes emerging from the WFR.

23. The ambition of this project is large. There is considerable scope to shape a new, bespoke approach based on Scotland's needs and aspirations. While some may question the need for this scale of reform, it is important to recognise that with change comes opportunity. This is an issue with a long history of inaction as regards modernisation but it is one which this Scottish Government is committed to taking forward for the benefit of all of Scotland.

Fundamental principles for management of wild fisheries

24. The development of a new system for wild fisheries will require a broad programme of work and decision-making which is prioritised and phased in a logical and sequential order. The starting point is a set of fundamental management principles to guide development, delivery and operation of the new system. These are set out in the box below and have been strongly informed by the report of the WFR.

  • All-species management of Scotland's wild fish resources to deliver maximum environmental, economic and social outcomes*
  • Delivery of local, national and international objectives
  • Alignment of responsibility and accountability for national and international obligations throughout the system
  • National strategy drives activity by optimally-sized local fishery management organisations
  • Clear differentiation of roles and responsibilities at national and local levels
  • A system which is responsive and flexible, able to adapt to changes and differences within the delivery landscape and in relation to the many and varied impacts and pressures on fish and fisheries
  • Governance framework that addresses consistency and transparency of management rigour, standards, finance, democratic reporting and accountability.
  • Supported by a regulatory system which is robust, proportionate and consistent
  • Evidence-based decision-making, taking account of the best available knowledge and science, supported by a national data and research strategy
  • A skilled and professional sector, which harnesses voluntary effort and enthusiasm, and provides opportunities to enter the profession and advance
  • Focused on widening participation and promoting opportunity
  • All developed through an inclusive, consultative, plan-led process.

*Examples of environmental, economic and social outcomes are provided in the table below:

  • Good conservation status
  • Improved habitat
  • Thriving fish populations
  • Thriving fisheries
  • Thriving tourism and supply chain businesses
  • Affordable demands on the public purse


  • Stable or growing participation rates
  • Improving skills and employment
  • Continuing public confidence in the system

25. The WFR report is clear that the new management system should build on the strengths of the current system. We recognise the importance of retaining a number of key elements of the existing system, notably the focus on locally-led delivery of fishery management and harnessing the knowledge and enthusiasm of those working within the field. We wish to ensure the retention of key people and expertise within the sector, as we recognise that such expertise will form the foundation of the future management structures. We also understand the need to maintain momentum and investment in the day to day management of fisheries throughout the reform programme.

26. Chapters 3 to 10 of this paper discuss options and seek views on specific elements of the new system based on these fundamental management principles and themes. The intention is that the principles provide a central foundation upon which the detail of the new system can be built and against which options can be tested. Respondents are invited to consider these principles in making their response.

Parallel workstreams

27. As noted above, the reform programme is not all about new legislation. At the same time as taking forward work to consider and develop the detail of the structures and legislation for the new management system we will progress a programme of workstreams. These will provide a package of action to take forward wild fisheries reform and are set out below.

National Strategy

28. The reform programme will build on current and previous work by Government and stakeholders to promote professional, evidence-based management of wild fisheries. The WFR report is clear that stronger strategic leadership is required in this area and proposes the development of a national strategy for wild fisheries which sets out a clear vision and aligns fish and fishery priorities with related strategic objectives at a national level, notably tourism, bio-diversity, social inclusion etc. Also proposed is a national research and data strategy as a framework to ensure fisheries management is based on sound science. Together these documents would provide strategic direction and a transparent account of actions necessary to deliver environmental, social and economic outcomes at national and local levels.

29. The Scottish Government will soon begin work, informed by stakeholders, on the development of a new national strategy for wild fisheries which includes a research and data strategy. Development of a national strategy over the coming months will enable a draft to be available for consideration alongside the draft Wild Fisheries Bill which we will consult upon before the end of the parliamentary session. The availability of a draft strategy at that point will aid understanding and discussion of national priorities for fishery management and therefore understanding of the potential future balance of roles at a national and local level. The strategy will include actions relating to specific areas recommended in the WFR report, notably widening access to fishing opportunities and promoting the activity among young people.

Skills and training

30. The WFR report recommends the development of training and continuous professional development across a range of priority areas and notes the potential role for the Institute of Fisheries Management and other relevant organisations in this area. Identification and development of skill sets required for fisheries management along with continuous professional development is an important area to progress now, consistent with our wish to ensure the retention of key people and expertise within the sector. We have therefore invited the Institute of Fisheries Management to lead a workstream to take forward this element of the reform programme.

Sustainable harvesting - wild salmon

31. As noted above, the WFR report recommended urgent action by the Scottish Government to improve the regulation of killing of Atlantic salmon and we acted quickly to consult on proposed conservation measures to introduce a ban on killing wild salmon except under licence, make associated baits and lures regulations and introduce carcass tagging to support enforcement of the licensing system. It is hoped that the strengthened regulatory framework will be in place in time for the 2016 season, ensuring that any harvesting of Atlantic salmon in Scotland is demonstrated to be sustainable.


Back to top