Fish Movements – Know the Law!
On 1st August 2008 new legislation came into force to control the introduction (i.e. stocking) of all species of freshwater fish within Scotland , irrespective of the source of the fish or the type or location of the water they are to be introduced to.
Following a number of unsubstantiated reports/rumours of unlicensed introductions involving coarse fish, the SFCA Executive Committee felt that it was appropriate to try to make coarse anglers, clubs, fishery managers/proprietors aware of the legislation and of the potential impacts of uncontrolled movements of fish.
In the past it was not uncommon for anglers to move live fish around the country. Trout and predator anglers sometimes carried them for bait and discarded those which were not used. In other cases people deliberately caught fish from abundant sources and transferred to them to waters where they were not already present as a kind of informal stocking.
Some anglers may not know that these practices are no longer acceptable; and that it is in fact now illegal to move or introduce live fish to any water in Scotland – whether they have been caught in the wild or bought from a fish farm – without formal written consent from the Scottish Government.
This is not just “big brother” bureaucracy – there are a number of very good reasons for it:
- Live fish, or the water from which they are transferred, can harbour diseases or parasites (including some that might not affect them or their own species), which could infect other fish in the water where they are introduced;
- The water in which fish are transferred can contain fragments of plant material or the eggs / larvae of other organisms (often invisible to the naked eye), which could multiply in the water where the fish are introduced and damage existing habitats and inhabitants;
- Fish introduced to waters where they are not already present (especially if this is outside their natural range) can interfere with the established balance of nature, sometimes catastrophically, by competing for food or predating on existing species;
- Fish introduced to waters where they are already present may escape via outlet burns etc and thus reach waters in which they are not currently found, where they could have damaging effects;
- Even if the same species is already present in the water, introduced fish will differ genetically from the established strain, and in some circumstances interbreeding could then weaken the stock.
Moving or introducing fish is only safe practice if it is done on the basis of a proper evaluation of the possible consequences, which is carried out by scientists working for the Scottish Government when an application is made.
In addition to the obvious environmental impacts listed above, illegal introductions have a significant adverse impact on the image of coarse angling and coarse anglers in Scotland, put access to waters for coarse fishing at risk and make it all the more difficult to get approval for legitimate applications.
Most importantly, the illegal introduction of small numbers of fish rarely achieve the aim desired by those who carry out the activity.
The SFCA continues to work tirelessly to both grow our sport and protect it for future generations. The actions of a few individuals has potential to undo everything that we have done so far and are still trying to achieve.
The SFCA therefore urges anglers and fishery owners not to move or introduce fish illegally without consent.
Further information, including application forms, can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/fishintros
Clubs or proprietors who encounter difficulties when making formal applications to introduce stock are welcome to discuss the problems they encounter with the SFCA. Members of the Executive Committee are actively engaged with the various stakeholders in the process through the Strategic Framework for Scottish Freshwater Fisheries Forum and it Steering Group and may be able to offer constructive advice.