In October 2014 Andrew Thin, former Director of Scottish Natural Heritage, submitted his report to Scottish Government as chairman of the Wild Fisheries Review Panel. It is worth repeating the main thrust of his letter to the then Minister for the Environment & Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse):

“The recommendations contained in our report are not revolutionary. They represent a sensible set of modernising steps for a sector that already delivers a great deal of value to this country. We are confident that they will collectively provide the foundations of a robust and sustainable approach to managing our wild fisheries in the years ahead.”

The Panel’s recommendations set in motion yet further debate, which was healthy and productive and to which many valuable contributions were made. The debates centred around the creation of Fishery Management Organisations (FMOs), in particular their number, shape and structure. Anticipating this, the Rivers and Fisheries Trust of Scotland (RAFTS) disbanded, with Rivers Trusts like the FCRT being brought under the wing of the former Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, which itself became known as Fisheries Management Scotland (FMS), now under the capable chairmanship of Alistair Jack.      

The impetus brought to the Wild Fisheries Review exercise by the many stakeholders was immense but has withered recently as a result of the Scottish Government’s decision to reduce significantly the level of priority that it had previously promised. It is now up to the industry to seize the initiative if momentum for change is to be continued and brought about.

Significant for the Flow Country was the proposal to bring the Northern, Caithness and Helmsdale Boards together into one FMO: the Flow Country FMO. This was widely seen as an ideal pilot for the new Fisheries Management system in Scotland and was keenly supported by the FCRT. How fast and how far this will progress is a little uncertain but it still promises an exciting opportunity to care for the rivers from the Flow Country in holistic manner and to ensure that they continue to be the world-class salmon rivers that they have been.