Protecting our stocks of salmon is a very important part of the work of the DDSFB. Salmon are important to the Deeside economy and each one is worth thousands of pounds. Anglers spend a lot of money in the valley- buying fishing, taking accommodation, food and drink and so on. So looking after the fish in the river is a major undertaking and one we take very seriously.
Diarmid Hawkins is the bailiff in charge of policing operations on the Dee. It is Diarmid’s task to plan and deploy our resources over the course of the year.
“Different times of year present different challenges. Poaching threats can be categorised as coastal or in-river. We may have organised poaching gangs in the spring or ‘rod and liners’ who may attempt to take fish using illegal methods throughout the year. Some of these are professional gangs while others are simply individuals chancing their luck that they can fish without buying a permit. Poaching varies in severity depending on who is involved. A criminal gang is a different prospect from someone fishing without a permit. But each offence requires some form of sanction.”
Bailiffs have the same powers as a police constable and so they can arrest offenders and issue cautions. Every incident is logged these days, however innocuous. It is part of a wider commitment to tackling wildlife crime in Scotland. Our bailiffs work alongside Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Unit which has proved to be a useful pooling of resources.
Looking ahead, Diarmid see changes following the implementation of the Wild Fisheries Reform. Under the new proposals, all wild fish may have legal protection and bailiffs across Scotland will be empowered to deal with any illegal activity in relation to wild fish species.
Bailiffs themselves are set to change under the new management arrangement and may be given the more benign name of Fishery Officers. Training will be undertaken at a national level and licenced by a central authority, which will create a uniform standard across Scotland.
The existing Fishery Boards will be replaced in due course by Fishery Management Organisations. One of the main changes to policing will see Bailiffs/Fishery Officers cover a wider area than at present. The existing River Dee and River Don Fishery Boards have already developed a working relationship and have pooled bailiff resources. This additional capacity allows us to manage the policing effort more strategically to meet the needs of both rivers. We don’t know the final composition of the FMO in our area, but we are planning ahead to ensure we offer the best possible protection for our fish.