Angling on the Spey contributes over £12 million each year to the local economy and provides 367 full-time-equivalent jobs.Poaching therefore not only causes irreparable environmental damage, but also has a significant impact upon the local economy and causes damage to the rural community.
The Spey Fishery Board employs a number of Water Bailiffs to protect the Spey catchment (although excluding any areas covered by a Protection Order) from the illegal taking (or poaching) of Salmon and Sea Trout. Empowered under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003, each of the Board’s Water Bailiffs is warranted to enforce the legislation and has various statutory powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest. These powers extend to the whole of the Spey district and to any adjoining salmon fishery district (which for the Spey includes the Findhorn, Lossie, Deveron and Tay districts). The production by a Bailiff of his or her warrant, or any badge or device indicating the appointment, is sufficient authority for the exercise of the powers.
In 2009 the Spey Fishery Board continued to work closely with the Grampian and Northern Constabularies. Grampian Constabulary launched Operation Salmo in February 2007, a nationwide police operation against salmon poaching that saw greater cooperation between the Spey Fishery Board’s Bailiffs, the police and the general public. Spey Fishery Board Bailiffs have attended a training course on restraint procedures held by Grampian Police, which was also attended by Bailiffs from neighbouring DSFBs. This enhanced our already close ties with Grampian Police, which were strengthened further during 2009 with the launch of Operation River Watch, in order to control the poaching of these superb fish. Operation River Watch is a joint initiative between Grampian and Northern Constabularies aimed at involving Ghillies, Game Keepers and local communities around the Spey catchment in reporting incidents of wildlife crime for follow-up action by the Police.
The Spey Fishery Board is also responsible for approximately 20 miles of coastline (and extending three nautical miles out to sea, from the sand dunes at Lossiemouth to Cowhythe Head, East of Portsoy) which is regularly patrolled by Water Bailiffs operating a patrol boat. Over the years, this patrol boat has enabled the successful removal of many illegally-placed nets around the coast. A total of 11 patrols were completed with the Spey Fishery Board’s 17ft Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat, during which two illegal gill nets were intercepted. However, the deterrent effect of these patrols should not be under-estimated. Two helicopter patrols of the coast were also undertaken in July and August 2009, in collaboration with the Fisheries Protection Service and the Conon and Kyle of Sutherland DSFBs.
Whilst poaching activity nationwide may be declining, the trend on the River Spey in recent years has seen a rise in the presence of known poachers. Furthermore, whilst the numbers of arrests and convictions may be low, there is no doubt that without the dedicated, professional work of the SFB’s Bailiffs and the deterrence that they provide, the River Spey would be far more of a target for such illegal activity.