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Table 15

Pattern of land use in the UK, 1986

Arable and permanent crops28.7
Permanent pasture45.4
Forest and woodland9.4
Other land15.2
Inland water1.3

Source: 1987 FAO Prod. Yearbook, 41 (Publ. 1988)

The UK is one of the most highly developed industrial and trading nations in the world, with huge conurbations holding much of its population. Five great urban areas in England hold about 35 percent of its population, and about 35 percent of Scotland's population lives in the Glasgow-Clydesdale area and all in all the UK is about 92 percent urban. Nevertheless, agriculture still constitutes an important use of its land. The chief crops are fodder cereals, beets, and potatoes, but livestock raising is the largest facet of the farming industry. Owing to the intensive nature of agriculture in some sections, runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, silage and animal wastes contribute to water pollution, and may have been largely responsible for increases in solute concentrations of British streams. For example, of 708 incidents of pollution reported in Northern Ireland in 1988, 249 were caused by silage and 229 described as general farm pollution (Morrison, 1990).

The climatic conditions have generally precluded a need for irrigation except for market garden crops. In 1986, only about 155 000 ha (0.06 percent) of the UK were irrigated, although it is estimated that this will rise, especially in eastern England where from April to October evaporative loss exceeds its rainfall.

Extensive land drainage has, however, long been a practice in both highland and lowland areas to control soil moisture. Starting in the Thirteenth Century, by 1927 about one-seventh of the agricultural area of England and Wales depended upon drainage for its fertility and this area contains over 300 000 km of drainage ditches. Drainage has had many ill effects upon fisheries (see section 9.2), but some drainage channels have become well established as coarse fisheries, usually let to local clubs.

With less than ten percent of its area forested, the UK ranks very low in the European scale of forest development, only Iceland, Malta and the Netherlands being lower. Upland forests started to succumb to agriculture and grazing centuries ago, often being replaced by bog mosses, and their decline continued through use for charcoal and shipbuilding. The introduction of sheep into Scotland in 1740 was especially hard on soils and forests. Furthermore, some recent afforestation programmes have been opposed by sheep farmers and those who do not wish to see land turned into “biologically sterile tree farms” (LaBastille, 1983). Present practices of forestry, primarily planting of conifers, are controlled with general benefit to surface waters. However, in some areas adverse effects on fish populations may result from increased acidity in streams, reduced flows, and erosion causing siltation of spawning beds. Aerial application of phosphate fertilizer to forests may also have increased the productivity of otherwise oligotrophic waters.

Mining once played a very important role in the UK: Great Britain was once described as “an island of coal”. But its production declined and the ore-bearing districts of Upland Britain (e.g., for copper, tin and lead) reached their peak in 1820–70. Mining continues, however, and products such as coal, iron, and china clay are locally important as sources of water pollution. In some cases, the deposit of mining wastes on land has killed vegetation and thus accelerated channel activity. In other cases they have been deposited directly on stream banks. North Sea gas and oil resources, where production began in 1975, do not directly affect inland fisheries, although pipeline installations to carry their products have had a harmful effect on some Scottish streams (Mills, 1976, 1989). Sand and gravel pits when flooded are used for recreation in areas such as the Thames, Great Ouse and Trent.

Iron and steel, engineering, chemicals, electronics, motor vehicles, textiles and clothing are among the major industries in the UK. Industry here not only makes direct use of large quantities of water (e.g., for the manufacture of textiles and paper), but also creates large quantities of effluent. The major industries producing liquid effluents are metallurgy, chemicals, textiles and food processing. The discharge of effluents from gas-works and cooling water from electrical generating plants is common. Fortunately for stream fisheries, most of the large intakes are sited on estuaries rather than upstream sites, and industry is concentrated into a few highly populated areas, e.g., London, Birmingham, Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, Newcastle, central and southern Scotland, and South Wales. Although increasing the pollution problems in such areas, this also means that there are a considerable number of rivers comparatively free of heavy concentrations of industrial effluents.

Public sewerage is high in the UK. More than 90 percent of the British population is provided with main drainage and public treatment serves more than 80 percent of the population.

In 1987, the total installed electrical capacity of the UK was 64 772 thousand kW. Most of this power is thermal (87 percent) and only 2.2 percent (1 409 thousand kW) was hydroelectric. Nuclear power (7 184 thousand kW in 1987) well exceeds the use of hydro for electric power, and uses vast quantities of cooling water. Generally speaking, except in Scotland and Wales, hydroelectric production is unimportant, and has therefore not affected fishery resources to the extent that it has, in say, Scandanavian countries. For example, Scottish hydroelectric schemes mostly include special provisions to avoid as far as possible damage to fisheries and the stock of salmon (see Mills, 1989).

Although economically small in national terms, the marine fishing industry has long been highly developed in the UK. No place in Britain is over 120 km from tidal water and it has been easy to provide ocean fish to most inland areas. The per caput supply of fish (1979) was 16.7 kg/year. With the exception of the anadromous salmonids and catadromous eel, the commercial value of freshwater fishing in the UK has, therefore, had minor importance. Conversely, the use of its inland waters for recreational fishing has had a long and important history, including the development of recreational fishing tackle and methods used throughout the world. (An account of this development with special reference to the UK will be found in Dill, 1978.) In Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and southwest England, game fishing is an important element of tourism.

There are also other recreational uses of the inland waters, some of which may compete with angling; there were, for example, about 700 000 boaters and 75 000 water skiers in England and Wales circa 1972.

Ground water sources in 1972 accounted for only about 25 percent of the licensed water withdrawals in England and Wales and less than one percent in Scotland.

Total water use in the UK in 1972 was distributed as follows: population (domestic) 24 percent, industry 75 percent, and agriculture 1 percent. All but 15 percent of this use came from surface supply (ECE, 1978). In England and Wales in 1987 there was a demand of 16.85 million m3/day, 62 percent was used by industry, the bulk of it as cooling water. Public water supply and agriculture took the remainder.

The UK has an extensive system of much-used railways (density about 0.075 km/km2). Great Britain had an automobile road density of about 1.5 km/km2 and passenger car ownership of about 346 per 1 000 people (in 1989) which enable good access to most of the country. In 1980, about 75 percent of the coarse and game anglers in England and Wales used automobiles to reach their fishing areas. Some rivers are used for navigation, e.g., the Trent is navigable for over 150 km, and the lower 80 km is the longest stretch of natural navigable water in the UK. However, few tidal rivers in the UK have been used for inland shipping since the advent of canal-building (see section 5.4). Although developed for commercial use, the inland waterways now carry less than one percent of UK's freight traffic. The canal system suffers from narrow cross-section, the difficulty of establishing adequate catchment basins to replace water loss, and the need for many locks to cross hilly country. For example, the Grand Union Canal between London and Birmingham has 159 locks in 216 km. Even during the late Nineteenth Century, railways carried anglers by the hundreds from industrial cities to fish canals, and in 1974 it was estimated (Stabler, 1982) that 170 000 anglers in England and Wales used the canals.

The UK has a large number of important ports. Situated on estuaries of major rivers, their traffic and pollution have an effect on fisheries.

Tourism is high in the UK with about 1 250 000 overseas visitors in 1988 to Scotland alone. Angling attracts some of them.


Due mainly to its long period of ice-cover, the British Isles have a depauperate fish fauna as compared with that of mainland Europe. There are only about 55 species of fluvial and diadromous fishes in the British Isles, of which about 42 are indigenous (Maitland, 1972; Moss, 1980). Forty of these species are known to occur in Scotland, the remainder being restricted to England, particularly in the southeast (Maitland, 1977). The island of Ireland has even less species, only about 35 (see section on the Republic of Ireland).

Among the most important of the inland fisheries of the UK for commercial, food and recreational use are: European eel (Anguilla anguilla). Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), brown and sea trout (S. trutta), the introduced rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), char or charr (Salvelinus alpinus), whitefishes or coregonids (Coregonus spp.), grayling (Thymallus thymallus), pike (Esox lucius), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), bream (Abramis brama), barbel (Barbus barbus), gudgeon (Gobio gobio), chub (Leuciscus cephalus), dace (L. leuciscus), roach (Rutilus rutilus), rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), tench (Tinca tinca), and European perch (Perca fluviatilus). There are also lampreys (Petromyzonidae), and some essentially brackish water teleosts such as the occasional sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), shads (Alosa spp.), smelt (Osmerus eperlanus), sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), grey mullets (Mugil spp.) and flounder (Platichthys flesus).

Unlike the situation in many other northern countries, coregonids are relatively scarce in the waters of the UK. Their scientific nomenclature has been quite varied, and their common names have varied with the author, time and locality. According to Bagenal (1970), the British species fall generally into the Coregonus lavaretus group or C. albula group. Coregonid distribution is quite discontinuous in the UK, for example, in Scotland, the “powan” (C. lavaretus) is found only in Lochs Lomond and Eck (Maitland, Swain and Adair, 1981). In the English lakes, C. lavaretus is found only in Ullswater, Haweswater and Red Tarn, where it is known as the “schelly”, and in Wales, where it is known as the “gwyniad”, is found in Llyn Tegid or Bala Lake (Bagenal, 1970). In the UK as a whole, coregonids are important economically only in Northern Ireland (see section 5.2).

Chars have a limited role in the UK, although Maitland, et al. (1984) state that there are over 200 lakes in the British Isles containing char populations: the majority in Scotland, a considerable number in Ireland, about 12 in the Lakes District and three in Wales. The burbot (Lota lota) is exceedingly rare. Generally speaking, the distribution patterns of the native fishes of the UK have been as follows: (i) those of the upland north and west such as salmon, char and whitefish; (ii) those distributed over much of the area, e.g., trout, pike, minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), eel and perch; (iii) those in southern and eastern (lowland) England (typically cyprinids); and (iv) predominately marine-type species with a coastal distribution, e.g., the flounder (Platichthys flesus) and burbot.

Of the fishes introduced directly by man, a number such as the European catfish or wels (Silurus glanis) and some of the American centrarchids have such limited distribution as to be unimportant. The pikeperch or zander (Stizostedion lucioperca), introduced to England from Germany in 1878, has a much wider distribution but is still not well utilized. The American brook trout, a char (Salvelinus fontinalis), has had some success in acid waters in Scotland and has been considered for aquaculture. The Pacific coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) has been brought to Scotland for aquaculture, and the Pacific pink or humpback salmon (O. gorbuscha) has strayed to the coasts of the UK from the northern seas where it was introduced by the former USSR. The Chinese grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) was brought into the UK in 1974 for weed control, and later considered as an angling fish. To date, the common carp, probably introduced from the Continent for cultivation in the Fourteenth Century, and the American rainbow trout, introduced in the 1880s, have had the most positive effect on the fisheries of the UK of any of the exotics.

In addition to the fin-fishes, one indigeneous crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes, is common in many alkaline waters in the British Isles although not found naturally in Scotland. It was once eaten extensively. The American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) has been introduced on a wide scale.

Various committees have categorized the inland fishes of England and Wales in ways which to some seem a bit arbitrary or confusing. Thus, the Committee on Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (1957) has grouped them as follows: (i) “freshwater fishes”, a term self-explanatory except that this category excludes even resident trout and chars as well as salmon and sea trout; (ii) “coarse fishes”, those fishes which live all their lives in fresh waters but excluding the “game fishes” and certain freshwater fishes such as loaches (Cobitis sp.), sticklebacks (Gasterosteus spp.) and bullheads (Cottus gobio); (iii) “game fishes” reserved for Atlantic salmon, both resident and migratory trout (Salmo sp.) and char (Salvelinus sp.). Thus, among other fishes which may be taken for either sport or food in inland waters, the three groups above do not include a number of species which also live in salt water, e.g., eels, lampreys, shads, mullets, and flounder. In actual practice, char are not generally considered “game fishes” in the UK and even the sporting grayling is, together with most of the cyprinids, considered to be a “coarse fish”. More recently, the First Report of the Joint Freshwater Fisheries Research Advisory Committee (MAFF and NWC, 1980) has erected another series of species-groups which (to the author) appears more logical: (i) “salmonid fishes”, including salmon, sea trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and char (“migratory salmonids” include only salmon and sea trout); (ii) “freshwater fishes”, including grayling, roach, perch, tench, pike, bream, barbel and other species sometimes referred to as “coarse fish”; and (iii) “eel”.

7.1 Capture Fisheries

Table 16 illustrates the major commercial catch records of diadromous fishes in the UK at intervals during the period 1965–86. Both “inland” and “marine” catches are included because of the dependence of these fishes on both milieus and the centering of much of their management in fresh waters. Elsewhere in this report, the commercial fishery since 1965 as complied by FAO from government statistics has been reported for almost every country. However, with respect to the catch for this period (especially 1965–82) by the principal sub-divisions of the UK, analysis of presentation in the FAO Fishery Yearbooks has revealed so many errors or paucity of data that it has been decided to forego duplication of most of them here1.

1 Among the mistakes during the 1965–82 period were the lumping of Scotland's catch statistics for commercial and sport fishing in both the sea and rivers, the placement of Northern Ireland's commercial eel catches (which are made only in inland waters) in a marine statistical area, and inaccurate reporting of the catch in England and Wales. (Such mistakes have been called to the attention of FAO. The reporting has been improved but is still not consistent.)

Instead, Table 16 presents the commercial catch records for Atlantic salmon, sea trout, and European eel in the same form that is used within the three major components of the UK2. Two other tables are included to partially fill out the picture of the catch by the capture fisheries. Table 17 shows the salmon and sea trout reported taken by nets (commercial fisheries) and the number and weight taken by rods (sport fisheries) in England and Wales during the 1965–82 period. Table 18 shows the number and weight of salmon and sea trout caught by the rod and line fisheries of Scotland during the 1961–81 period.

2 Where the term “salmon” appears alone in these catch tables or without specification elsewhere in this report, it is understood to include any life stage of Salmo salar. That is, it includes both “grilse” (those fish returning to fresh water after spending one winter in the seal and “full salmon” or “multi sea winter fish”. There is no hard and fast rule for the distinction by commercial fishermen between “grilse” and “salmon” in Scotland. The two have often been segregated by weight and time of capture or even by “negotiation” between the fisherman and wholesaler (the prices may vary). For example, after the end of May, fish less than about 3.2 kg (7 lbs) are termed “grilse” (DAFS, Fish. of Scotland, Report for 1969). During the period of 1952–68, the average weights in Scotland were 4.7 kg for salmon and 2.4 kg for grilse

There are no available data on the total catch of non-migratory salmonids or coarse fishes in the UK.

Great attention has been directed in the UK to the migratory salmonids which provide both commercial and recreational fisheries; in fact, salmon preservation legislation has existed here and in Ireland for over 800 years. There were once almost 100 salmon rivers in England, about 20 in Wales, perhaps 200 in Scotland, and a few in Northern Ireland. Although many of these have been lost in the last 200 years through the combined results of industrialization, urban growth, and over-fishing (including poaching), enough still exist to furnish a harvest of Atlantic salmon unexceeded by any other nation in the world. In Scotland, for example, very few salmon streams have been lost, the only large one being the Clyde.

There are now about 50 or more viable salmon fisheries in England and Wales. Among the largest producers are the: Wye, Severn, Lune, Dart, Tamar and Plym, Dee, Hampshire Avon, Conway, Yorkshire Esk, Teifi, Exe, Ribble and Tyne. The Wye, which rises in mid-Wales and flows to the Bristol Channel, is the best salmon stream south of Scotland. Its annual rod catch is about 5 500 fish, while its commercial net fishery in the estuary produces about 1400 fish annually with a value of about £ 30 000 (Gee and Edwards, 1982). Netboy (1980) says that in England and Wales, the rods take about one salmon for every six landed by the nets. In late years, the figure appears to be closer to one in five. Harris (1980) believed that “… allowing for seasonal fluctuations, the overall declared salmon catch in England and Wales has remained relatively stable over the years”.

Table 16

Nominal commercial catches within waters of the UK of salmon, sea trout and eel 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1983–86 (in tons)

Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)19444433921736629968102
Sea trout (S. trutta)1021011181681531702520
Atlantic salmon    958-272485
671739726417 ---
615470556385 ---
Sea trout    95-6454
19514475117 ---
54273543 ---
Northern Irelandc        
European eel (Anguilla anguilla)8277908111 000915867702717
Atlantic salmon400299163122187794339

a All of the legal commercial catch of salmonids is made within 6 miles of the coast and quite a proportion is taken in the estuaries. Eel catch not reported here; see text

b Net-and-coble catch is equivalent to commercial fishing in inland waters. Fixed-engine (use of which is illegal in inland waters) covers catches made in FAO's Marine Statistical Area 27

c Eel catch made exclusively in inland waters. The Atlantic salmon catch includes half of the total catch of the Foyle system which, for statistical purposes, is divided equally between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. “Trout” catches are made but are not recorded here because the statistics appear to be confused (see text). See text also for catches of other species.

Source:   England and Wales - Catch for 1965–80 from Inspector of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries, MAFF, London, 15 Dec. 1983. Catch for 1983–86 (probably minimal) from O'Grady (1986, 1988)
Scotland - Catch for 1965–80 from Inspector of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries for Scotland, DAFS, Edinburgh, 11 Dec. 1979 and 30 Dec. 1983, as well as DAFS (1966–80). Catch for 1983–86 (probably minimal) from O'Grady (1986, 1988)
Northern Ireland - Eel catch for period of 1965–80 from DANI (1971–78). Eel catch for 1983–86 (probably minimal) from O'Grady (1986, 1988)
Salmon catch for period 1965–68 from FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics, Vol. 36 (Marine Statistical Area 27). Salmon catch for 1969–80 from DANI (1970–78). Salmon catch (probably minimal) 1983–86 from O'Grady (1986, 1988)

Table 17

Declared salmon and sea trout catches in England and Wales, 1965–82

YearsSalmonSea trout
Nets NumberRodsNets NumberRods
NumberWeight tNumberWeight t
196547 74832 16212661 35674 45262
196656 73035 26015847 99977 90962
196768 10329 60814770 74349 26740
196851 59116 5737953 56039 67831
196982 07416 1787838 57729 28623
1970130 32519 0318452 90132 40420
197192 71819 7538649 30424 73819
197285 88724 69112340 69040 48228
197393 90520 86110150 21938 50728
197480 47424 73610157 45043 28030
197589 51125 89510961 26037 80025
197643 73210 5924758 65021 27017
197775 14219 0018353 69026 16022
197875 60313 7076455 29030 40022
197962 33213 9085167 96047 49036
198069 37021 5778997 72042 41036
198199 39822 16510483 39044 63038
198266 73613 3605879 33728 77723

Source: Inspector of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries, MAFF, London, 15 Dec. 1983

Table 18

Rod catches of salmon and sea trout in Scotland, 1961–81

 YearSalmonaSea trout
(x 1,000)
(x 1,000)

a Including grilse

b Provisional

Source: 1961–63 - Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) comm. of 11 Dec. 1979 based on Fisheries of Scotland Reports
1964–79 - DAFS 1966–81
1980–81 - DAFS, Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistical Tables, 1981

Scotland, with less industrial development, and about 110 rivers and lochs for salmon fishing, possesses the bulk of UK's salmon resources. The most valuable fisheries are on the east coast. Its most important salmon rivers are the: Tweed (partly a border stream), Spey, Tay and Dee. Others prominent for angling include the: Deveron, Findhorn, Ness, Oykell/Cassley, Helmsdale and Naver. During 1952–75, the total catch of salmon and grilse by nets and rods in Scotland averaged 434 200 annually (range, 314 076 in 1956 to 606 420 in 1967). The ratio of grilse to “full” salmon was about 50:50 during this period. It was the conclusion of the Association of Scottish District salmon Fishery Boards (1977) that: “It does not appear that there has been any marked change in the total Scottish salmon catch over the last 50 years”. During a later period, 1976–81, the total Scottish catch of salmon and grilse by nets and rods averaged 320 641 annually (range 282 569 to 353 859 fish) while the ratio of grilse to “full” salmon was 54 to 46. It will be noted that during this nine-year period, the average catch had descended towards the 1952–75 minimum. During the 1960–70 period, the average annual number of salmon caught by rods in Scotland was 67 175 or 15 percent of the total catch (Netboy, 1974). During the 1978 to 1982 period, rods were taking about 25 percent of the catch (R. Williamson, DAFS, personal communication, 1983).

In Northern Ireland, the best salmon streams include the: Foyle, Bann, Erne, Finn, Faughan, Main, Strule and Roe. Salmon fishing on the Foyle has been mooted as the greatest of any river in Europe (Elson, 1975). During 1960 to 1972, the average annual salmon catch in Northern Ireland minus the Foyle area was calculated at 93 t; that for the Foyle areas as 379 t (Elson, 1975). The Foyle catchment area of 4 002 km2, involving about 830 km of stream for salmon, is situated in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and is administered by the Foyle Fisheries Commission. For statistical purposes, one-half of the catch is credited to Northern Ireland and one-half to the Republic (see section 8.2).

Unlike the more northern countries, in both Great Britain and Ireland salmon run into the rivers throughout the year, e.g., the Tweed has a run of salmon eleven months of the year. The shorter spate rivers of the west coast have more limited runs. Most smolts are two years old, and many streams have large populations of grilse.

7.1.1 Commercial fishing

Commercial fishing for inland fish species in Great Britain is almost entirely limited to Atlantic salmon, sea trout, European eel and in Northern Ireland to pollan, brown trout, and a few other species.

Commercial catches of salmon and sea trout are shown in Tables 16 and 17 and have been partially discussed in the previous section. The commercial fishery for these migratory salmonids, which is strictly controlled, occurs both in coastal waters and in estuaries. A variety of fishing methods are used, some of them quite primitive, and with many local adaptations. In fact, Lord Hunter (1976) has characterized some of these methods as “ante-diluvian”, considering “traditional” methods as “an interesting amalgam of inefficiency and anachronism”. Sea fishing for salmon is prohibited in a wide area outside the six-mile zone. Within the zone, drift netting and certain other methods are prohibited off the coast of Scotland, but are permitted under license off England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most drift netting off England and Wales is well within a three-mile limit.

In Scotland's inland waters and territorial seas, i.e., within the three-mile limit, the rights to salmon and sea trout are private. Coastal fishing is primarily with fixed engines (bag, stake, or fly net and jumper net), although beach seines may also be used. Within Scottish estuaries, with few exceptions, net-and-coble (a seine and a small rowboat) is the only method permitted, although some certificated fixed engines are permitted in Solway Firth, and cruives (a form of weir) now illegal but still present in a few rivers. A few other methods are also used.

In England and Wales, licenses are required for estuarine and coastal netting. Most salmon are taken with seine, draft or draw nets, but drift gillnets and traps are also used. With but a few exceptions, fixed engines are forbidden. Methods for fishing sea trout are similar and often the two species are taken together.

During the Nineteenth Century, almost every mill stream in the south and west of England had an eel trap, but eeling is not very important in Great Britain now. (There were already about 18 000 water-mills on English streams by the Eighteenth Century.) It seems to have declined for economic rather than natura forces. The eel fisheries of England and Wales have never been monitored on a central basis, and locally only rarely. Commercial eel fisheries in Great Britain have traditionally been a one-man operation, usually conducted at night and the catch usually sold locally for cash. In the early 1970s, the water authorities estimated their annual commercial catch to be 293 t, and catches circa 1977 were still estimated at about 290 t/year in England and Wales. There are now limited coastal fisheries for eel in the Thames estuary and the Solent, taking about 58 and 80 t respectively per year. Most eel fishing is done with fyke nets although some eel traps are still in operation, and racks operated on the chalk streams of southern England are believed to catch about 50 t/year. Pair trawls are important in the Thames estuary and Solent. The total annual catch for England and Wales was believed to be about 440 t (B. Stott, MAFF, personal communication, 1983). On the basis of reported catch, O'Grady (1986) estimated the commercial catch of eel in Great Britain to be 600 t annually in both 1983 and 1984, 24 t in 1985 and 137 t in 1986. The elver catch in England and Wales was reported to be 22 t in 1985 and 23 t in 1986 (O'Grady, 1988).

There is also a long flourishing elver fishery mainly confined to the lower reaches of the Severn. Landing nets on wooden frames are used to catch them. From a facility designed to handle 100 t annually, the elvers are widely sold overseas for eel culture, for restocking (in Germany and the Netherlands), for human consumption in Spain, and for a small local market.

There is also some commercial eel fishing in Scotland, mainly with fyke nets in east coast rivers and some low-lying lochs. Longlines are not allowed.

Eel fishing is still important in Northern Ireland where the remains of eel weirs dating to about 1000 B.C. are to be found on the River Bann. There is no saltwater eel catch here; the entire eel catch comes from the Lough Neagh-River Bann complex and Lough Erne. Approximately 300 fishermen using 150 boats fish Lough Neagh on a seasonal basis for eel (Vickers, 1971). Eel stocking in this lough started in 1933, left off 1948–59, and then resumed. The mean annual number of elvers stocked from 1960 to 1974 was 13.8 million and the annual catch is about 600–800 t (Moriarty, 1978, 1984). Yellow or feeding eel are caught in the summer, traditionally using baited longlines. The migrating silver eel are caught in the autumn at weirs in the outlet, the lower Bann. Lough Erne is also stocked with elvers, about 3.3 million annually during the 1960–81 period, and has an annual catch of about 49 t.

About 65 years ago, the Northern Ireland catch of pollan from Lough Neagh was over 400 t, most of it exported to England. In recent years the pollan catch amounts to only 50 to 150 t, used for local market sale and for bait. O'Grady (1986) reports the commercial catch as around 80 t in both 1985 and 1986. Brown trout are also caught commercially in Northern Ireland, mainly in Lough Neagh. In 1970, the catch was said to have fallen by over 9 t to an estimated catch of 20.4 t, and in 1971 it was estimated at 21.3 t (DANI, 1971–81). There is also some commercial exploitation of pike, perch, bream and reach again mainly from Lough Neagh and Erne, although catches here, especially of perch, are reported to have declined. Northern Ireland's commercial catch as reported by O'Grady (1988) for these species are as follows: pike, 10 t in 1985 and 9 t in 1986; perch, 75 t in both 1985 and 1986; bream, 45 t in both 1985 and 1986; roach, 25 t in both 1985 and 1986.

Circa 1957, there were about 1 950 men fishing for commercial inland species in England and Wales and about 650 in Northern Ireland. About 1 600 men were directly employed in commercial salmon fishing in Scotland in 1965, declining to about 1 200 circa 1982.

To complete the general picture of commercial fishing for inland species in the UK, Britain (1981) states that the landed value of the salmon catch in 1979 was about £ 5.3 million in Scotland, about £ 2 million in England and Wales, and £ 419 000 in Northern Ireland. Eel gained about £ 1.5 million in Northern Ireland in 1979.

7.1.2 Sport fishing

About 15 species of fluvial and diadromous fishes in the UK are widely exploited for sport. Atlantic salmon, brown and sea trout, the rainbow trout, and the char command attention both as “game” and food fish. Salmon rivers also provide angling for trout as do many other streams and lakes throughout most of the UK. Among them are the famous chalk streams, the large lochs, and the many small tarns and becks with natural populations of brown trout, and the newer reservoir fishing, especially in England. Much of the older British angling literature is based on tales of dry fly and nymph fishing on the clear chalk streams, but today's English trout fisherman is primarily a reservoir fisherman. Here, the use of rapidly growing domesticated rainbow trout has revolutionized angling for the average or lower income angler. Many of the reservoirs are situated in nutrient-rich lowland areas which provide good trout growth and would otherwise be coarse fish waters. They are generally considered put-and-take fisheries using trout of fairly large size. The early success of fishing at Rutland has been described (section 5.3), and a high catch rate has been experienced from other well-stocked reservoirs in the UK, e.g., Eyebrook Reservoir where 75 percent of all stocked fish were caught during 1962–71 (Crisp and Mann, 1977), and the 240-ha Draycote where 70 percent of the trout stocked were caught in 1980 (North, 1983).

In England and Wales, the National Angling Survey of 1980 showed that in 1979, their inland waters were fished by some 2 704 000 anglers, and sea waters by 1 791 000 anglers. Among these anglers, 60 percent went fishing for coarse fish in inland waters, 20 percent went game fishing (i.e., for salmon or trout in inland waters), and 53 percent went sea fishing. (For references to the National Angling Survey 1980 see: NOP Market Research Ltd (1980) and Glyptis (1980). For the National Angling Survey 1970 see: National Environment Research Council (1971 and 1971al.) Reservoirs, lakes and gravel pits attracted almost as many game anglers as rivers and streams. About 45 percent of these game anglers used still water sites and the majority used stocked sites.

The bulk of the inland sport fishing in England and Wales is devoted, however, to “coarse” fishes, primarily cyprinids: barbel, bream, carp, chub, dace, gudgeon, roach, rudd, and tench. Coarse fishes also include perch, pike and even grayling. There is also some eel fishing for sport, a rather specialized activity. The coarse fisherman in Great Britain has a large array of waters in which to fish. Prominent among the coarse fish waters of England and Wales are: the Norfolk Broads, and rivers such as the Trent, Thames, Severn, the Ouse system in Yorkshire, and the rivers of the Fenland area in East Anglia and Lincolnshire, and the Welsh lakes. The chalk streams of southern England often produce specimen (trophy) coarse fish. Some of the Lake District waters are well known for perch and pike. Some coarse fishes have been imported from the Continent to restock streams, but not in numbers today because of strict disease control regulations. Generally speaking, unlike the general practice elsewhere in Europe, the angler seeking coarse fish in England. and Wales does not retain his catch, and in 1979, 36 percent of their coarse anglers took part in matches. The competition or “match” angler competes with others for prizes for trophies in trying to attain a high weight of captures within a given time, which, after measurement, are returned to the water. This practice has met with disapproval with some biologists who feel that many fisheries might be improved (i.e., that there would be fewer stunted populations) if most of the captures were killed (Le Cren, 1978).

In Scotland, which is renowned for its trout and salmon fishing, most of the waters are exploited only for salmonids, even where coarse fish (including perch, pike and grayling) are present. If caught, coarse fish are usually retained in Scotland, and “match” fishing has been almost unknown. In fact, coarse fish are often removed by chemical treatment and replaced by trout. Coarse fishing is becoming more popular in Scotland now because of the presence of specimen fish and advertising.

Although Northern Ireland is primarily a game-fishing country for both resident and sea trout and salmon, it also provides some of the best coarse fishing in Europe, especially for bream, roach, rudd, perch and pike. Lough Erne, Upper Bann, Blackwater, Colebrook River and Newry Canal are among its best coarse fish waters. A world match record of almost 94 kg was once set at Lough Erne and in 1977 a “staggering” total catch of 10.61 t was made by 200 anglers over a three-day period at Lough Erne (DANI, Rept. on the Sea and Inl. Fish. of N. Ireland for 1977).

The National Angling Survey of 1970 estimated a total of 2 790 000 anglers in England and Wales. The National Angling Survey of 1980 estimated that in 1979 there were 3 380 000 anglers in England and Wales and 354 000 in Scotland, i.e., 8 percent of the population of Great Britain or 15 percent of the men and boys aged 12 and over. In 1981, there were estimated to be about 4 million anglers in the UK as a whole, or about 7 percent of the total population (Britain, 1981). Somewhat different estimates are given by Scotland (1990) who - with a small sample - estimated that in 1986, 1.8 percent of the adults in Scotland and 1.7 percent of the adults (aged 16 or more years) in Great Britain participated in fishing. Although these are not large percentages, as compared, for example, with that in Sweden, angling is considered to be the most popular active sport here for males after soccer or association football (Birch, 1976). As Britain (1990) says, “The most popular country sport is fishing, and there are about 4 million anglers in Britain.” It is now generally accepted in the UK not only as having great economic value but as playing an increasingly important part sociologically in providing pleasure to a growing number of people.

No licenses are issued in Scotland for either recreational or commercial fishing. Proprietors of rod fisheries in Scotland are, however, required to make reports of migratory salmonids caught on their waters. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, both recreational and commercial fishing licenses are issued, and anglers are required to report their catches of migratory salmonids. Catches of non-migratory trout and other inland fishes need not be reported to any central national agency throughout the UK, although commercial fishermen must report their catch.

Freshwater fishing in the UK usually has to be paid for. Coarse fishing is let to angling clubs by private owners, while trout and salmon fishermen either rent a stretch of river, join a club, or pay for the right to fish by the day, week or month. The main incentive for joining an angling club is that the club has access to good and/or local angling waters. The National Angling Survey of 1980 showed that in England and Wales 43 percent of coarse anglers and 31 percent of game anglers belonged to at least one club or association. A considerable number of hotels provide free fishing to residents or have access to private waters in the vicinity. Guides to angling are issued by various tourist boards in the UK.

The economic value of the sport fisheries in the UK as reflected by the National Surveys of Angling is very high. Much more money is spent on recreational fishing than on freshwater fish as food. During the year 1969–70, each angler in England and Wales spent about £ 80/year for his sport, and of the gross annual expenditure of about £ 195–250 million by 2 790 000 anglers, about two-thirds related to inland waters (Tombleson, 1978, 1982). In 1979, the gross expenditure in England and Wales for coarse fishing was £ 300 million, for sea fishing £ 213 million, and for game fishing in inland waters £ 120 million. As a specific example, Gee and Edwards (1982) estimated that the total expenditure on salmon angling on the River Wye amounted to £ 736 per salmon compared with a commercial value of £ 36 for each salmon netted in the Wye estuary.

As might be expected, the sales and rental of salmon and trout waters is very high. In England and Wales, circa 1967–72, the sales value of a recreational salmon fishery was about £ 500–750 per fish caught. “Thus a fishery in which the five-year average annual catch was only 100 salmon would fetch between £ 50 000 and £ 75 000 on the open market” (Nat. Environ. Res. Counc., 1972). Trout fishing values are also very high; some have risen to as high as £ 10 900/km of stream and circa 1972, a mixed fishery (one bank only) for salmon and coarse fish sold for £ 11 200/km. More recently, the fishing for about 1.5 km of the River Tweed in Scotland sold for US$ 200 000, based on an average annual catch of 65 salmon (Zern, 1982). Such startling figures are, of course, far above the norm. Salmon fishing or trout fishing on a famous chalk stream are generally luxury sports, but much of the trout fishing, especially in Scotland, is quite cheap, and coarse fishing widely practised. Furthermore, the growth of reservoir fishing has brought fishing for large trout within the capabilities of many.

7.2 Aquaculture

Until fairly recently, most of the fish produced through pond culture in the UK have been destined for stocking recreational fisheries and not for the table. Lewis (1979) says that although trout restocking farms have been in operation in Great Britain for over 100 years, the first table trout farm was not built until the 1960s. Today, however, there is a greater emphasis on commercial production for food. There has been considerable research in the UK on culture of some marine flatfish, trout and salmon culture in both fresh and salt water is firmly established, and eel, crayfish and common carp culture are also in progress.

As in other countries, it is difficult to obtain accurate figures on the rise or extent of aquacultural production in the UK. Table 19 which provides some estimates of table trout production in the UK illustrates some of the difficulties in obtaining specific or agreed information even from “standard” sources. (Statistics on aquacultural production in the UK do not always specify the geographical or political unit represented, nor do they always specify the species (it is probably mostly rainbow trout in Table 19) nor whether all of the production is designed for table (i.e., consumable or for food) or for stocking either other production ponds or fishing waters, not the exact year of production. In short, aside from the difficulties in obtaining figures, their presentation in many reports simply begs the question. In this paper I have tried to present the data as they were given originally.) It is clear, however, that with an apparent production of only about 100 t in 1956 in England and Wales (UK/EIFAC, 1975) and 100–800 t in the UK in 1965, that the estimates of about 6 000 t of trout (Table 19) or even 11 000 t of fish from all freshwater farms in the UK in 1980 (Solbé, 1982) represented a substantial increase for the country. Prescott (1983) said that the UK ranked about sixth in Europe for farmed fish. By 1989, of all European countries, outranked only by Norway in its production of salmonoid fish: about 17 000 t of trout and 28 000 t of salmon1. Trout production appears to be fairly stable, but further large increases are still being predicted for salmon (see below).

1 Norway produced 4 000 t of trout and 130 000 t of salmon in 1989

In a survey of 421 fish farms (out of an estimated 480 freshwater fish farms in the UK), Solbé (1982) noted that 95 percent raised salmonids: 62 percent rainbow trout, 18 percent brown trout, 10.6 percent salmon, 3.1 percent brook trout and 2 percent sea trout. The other 5 percent of the farms raised: carp, roach, rudd, tench, grass carp and eel.

Readily identifiable individual statistics on aquacultural production in England and Wales seem often to be lacking. It is apparent, however, that England and Wales produce the largest amount of cultivated trout in the UK. During the 1976/77 period, the following estimates were made of trout and salmon production in Great Britain: in England and Wales, 1 500 t from 140 trout farms; in Scotland, 950–1 300 t of trout from 25 farms, and 200 t of salmon from 8 farms (MAFF/DAFS, 1978). Lewis (1980) felt that two-thirds of the production in Great Britain would be in England and Wales and one-third in Scotland, and Lewis (1981) had figures showing that 70 percent of the table trout reared in Great Britain during 1974–79 came from England and Wales. Based on a survey of about two-thirds of its registered fish farms, in 1988 England was producing at least 7 800 t of rainbow trout, 10 t of brown trout, 5 t of salmon, 20 t of carp and 1 t of eel. The returns from Wales showed that this principality was producing at least 660 t of rainbow trout, and 5 t of other trout and salmon for the table (Morrison, 1990).

The prospects of fish farming in Scotland, especially for rainbow trout, were somewhat discounted at one time (see the DAFS Fisheries of Scotland Report for 1966, p. 57). Fluctuation in flow of Scottish streams and lack of industrial fishing to provide trout feed (as in Denmark) were cited as reasons for a less than ideal situation for pond rearing. However, successful trials of on-growing rainbow trout had already started in 1960 at Loch Sween on Scotland's west coast, with fish kept in net enclosures in brackish water and then transferred to floating cages in a sea-loch (Sedgwick, 1982). Moreover, ponds starting on “Danish” lines were well in production in 1967, with 20 t of trout produced at one Scottish farm, and new units constructed for saltwater cages to raise rainbow trout to 2¼ kg.

By 1970, low-cost floating cage structures, considered better than either ponds of raceways, had been developed for use in Scottish freshwater lochs. Sea culture using both fixed cages and saltwater tanks had also started and by 1971 some cultivated salmon had reached the market from one saltwater farm. Currie (1972), among others, pointed out the possibilities of using Scotland's west coast waters for salmonid culture, likening its indentations or sea-lochs to the fiords of Norway1. He described their salinity, stated that their tidal rise and fall ensured good oxygenation, and felt that better food conversion rate for trout could be obtained in the sea than in fresh water. He was, however, not overly sanguine about the possibility of enclosed sea culture, but the Fisheries of Scotland Report for 1972 now spoke of a great potential for Scottish salmon culture, saying that apart from Norway, Scotland had the only suitable sheltered waters in Europe for sea-loch culture (west coast and the Hebrides). Floating sea cages for rainbow trout and salmon were adapted for use in freshwater lochs to raise rainbow trout in 1976, and were also being exported. An act of 1980 further facilitated fish farming in Scotland by relieving fish farmers of liability to pay local authority rates on operational property.

1 Needham (1986) has emphasized Norwegian influences on the development of the Scottish salmon farming industry: especially the use of sea lochs and the use of Norwegian salmon stocks which tend to be late maturers

Table 19

Estimated production of cultivated trout in the UK, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980–89 (in tons)

Tombleson (1982)“Fish”100200-----------
Brown (1977)Trout, rainbow800-1000–2000a----------
Georgetti and Ceschi (1982)bTrout--2000----------
Lewis (1980, 1981)cTrout, table--1505----------
Lewis (1979)Trout, rainbow-------------
Shaw, Shaw and Thomas (1981)Trout, table, rainbow--130055006500--------
FAO (1980)Trout, mostly rainbow-------------
Britain (1982)Trout---6000---------
Pinot and Kirk (1982)Trout, rainbow, freshwater---5000---------
Prescott (1983)Trout, rainbow-------------
Fish Farm.Inter., 9(10) (1982)Trout, table---420052005500-------
Fish Farm.Inter., 11(7)(1984)Trout------8500------
FES (1986)bTrout, table, portion--------10200----
FES (1989)dTrout, table, portion-----------1500017000
FAO Fish.Info. Data & Stat.Serv. (1990)Rainbow trout--------11600118771370715525-
FAO Fish.Info. Data & Stat.Serv. (1991)eRainbow trout---------11877187071552517362

a Circa 1975 (exact date not given)
b Specified as Great Britain, not UK
c Specified as Great Britain. Rainbow trout judging from Lewis (1980)
d Large trout specified as UK, portion size trout specified as Great Britain
e To these figures add the additional production of brown trout: 140 t (est) in 1986; 150 t in 1987; 180 t in 1988; 200 t (est) in 1989

Table 20

Estimated production of cultivated salmon in Scotland, 1971, 1975, 1980–89 (in tons)

DAFS, Fisheries of Scotland Reports for 1971–78“some”200–250----------
DAFS (1981a), 1982, 1983)--5981 1332 152-------
Fish Farm.Int., 11(3) (Publ. 1984)-----2 536------
Fish Farm.Int., 12(4) (Publ. 1985)------3 912-----
Laird and Needham (1986)-------6 90011 00015 000--
Morrison (1990)----------17 95128 553
FAO Fish.Info. Data & Stat.Serv. (1990)-------6 92110 33812 72117 951-
FAO Fish.Info.Data & Stat.Serv. (1991)--------10 33812 72117 95128 553
Fish Farmer (1990)-----------28 000

By 1982, rainbow trout culture, from 65 companies at 85 sites, in Scotland was using the following methods (production is indicated in parentheses): freshwater cages (38%), ponds (34%), tanks (21%), and seawater cages (7%). Of the 1982 production of rainbow trout, 1 786 t were table trout and 132 t were used for restocking.

With respect to salmon, by 1981 the aquacultural production in Scotland of 1 133 t exceeded that of the commercial capture fishery for that year (997 t), and by 1982 it had exceeded the greatest combined catch of both rods and nets during the 1965–82 period, i.e., 2 152 t as against the capture fishery catch in 1967 of 2 134 t. Within two years (1984), this farmed production of salmon had risen to 3 912 t or about 1.8 million fish (Fish. Farm. Inter., 12(4) (1985)). By 1988, the value of production was set to make salmon the single most valuable fish produced or landed in the UK, topping cod and haddock (Laird and Needham, 1988). By 1989, the production of salmon in Scotland alone was about 28 000 t. See Table 20 to follow the rise of commercial aquacultural production of salmon in Scotland from 1971 through 1989.

The commercial production of table fish in Northern Ireland is in no way comparable to that in Great Britain. During the 1973–80 period, the estimated commercial production of rainbow trout varied from 100 t by nine farms in 1973 to 235 t in 1979 (DANI, Rep. Sea and Inland Fisheries N.I., 1973–80). By 1988, annual commercial production of rainbow trout had reached about 700 t and a salmon farm had started (Morrison, 1990). The development of commercial aquaculture in Northern Ireland has been facilitated by governmental grant aid in establishing and improving fish farms. Much of the produce is sold fresh in Great Britain.

With respect to trout culture generally, most farms in the UK are now raising their own eggs, reversing the former practice of using large numbers of imported eggs. Unlike the “Danish” system, few ponds are built into existing river courses although rivers are a prime source of water for freshwater systems. Springs and wells are used to supply intensive ponds which are of paramount importance, although raceways, cages and extensive ponds are also used. Sea water pens are also used. Most effluent from freshwater farms is discharged to rivers. In the UK circa 1982, it required 8.1 to 10.3 l/s of water on the average to produce 1 t of trout (Solbé, 1982).

Trout weighing between 170 and 250 g in the round are in demand as consumption fish. Circa 1980, about 82 percent were sold fresh, 16 percent sold frozen, and 2 percent smoked. Dried pellet food is used almost exclusively, automatic feeders and other modern devices are used on the newer farms. The production cycle from hatching to market size requires about 10 months in the southern UK and up to 18 months in the north.

Atlantic salmon production in the UK is almost confined to Scotland. Like the DAFS (1972), Edwards (1978) felt that the west coast of Scotland had the best sites for sea production of salmon next to Norway; the fish are farmed in cages in sea-lochs after the smolts have been adapted to salt water. Smolts are put into sea water in April at a weight of 40 g and reach a weight of 0.5 kg by December of the same year. The first sales of grilse are made in June of the following year when the fish have reached a size of 1.0 to 1.5 kg. Salmon sales start in January and continue until April of the third year when the fish average 3 to 3.5 kg. The cages are then restocked (Sedgwick, 1982).

Salmon ranching is also a possibility, but Thorpe (1980) states that in Britain it is a potential rather than actual enterprise. A pilot study by DAFS on sea ranching on the river Lussa in southwest Scotland reported by Anon. (1984) and Wray (1985) obtained a return of just under 2½ percent in the first year. Eggs of the Pacific coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) have also been imported into Scotland for commercial hatching. To date, however, the farming of Atlantic salmon continues to be an amazing endeavour in Scotland.

European eel production using heated effluents from power plants is now underway in the UK. Sixty-five tons of eel were cultivated in Scotland in 1979 and 15 t in 1980 (DAFS, Fisheries of Scotland Report for 1980).

A few common carp farms have also been started in England with a view to sales to “ethnic minorities”, foreign restaurants and shops, and for export. One of the largest farms, in Yorkshire, uses mirror carp from Germany. In Britain, carp grow only during the summer so it requires three growing seasons to reach a table weight of about 1¼ kg (Wray, 1982).

There is also interest in the commercial production of crayfish in the UK. The first commercial crayfish centre in Britain was established in Dorset in 1976, using the American Pacifastacus leniusculus (Richards and Fuke, 1977).

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