LETTERS: Crisis on the Cree

I am writing to you in response to two articles in the Galloway Gazette (August 31) to ask what can be done about the seemingly dire state of the salmon fishing in the Cree system over the past few years.

As a guest house owner at Villa Cree for the past six years, I have noticed a rapid decline in salmon numbers being caught, and therefore numbers of visiting anglers to catch them. Previous owners tell tales of single anglers catching salmon in the dozens per day, let alone a year. This year seems to be especially poor in both respects.

We are now only 37 days away from the end of our season on the Cree and so far this year we have had only three fishermen stay with us, whereas five or six years ago we were having three a week. Two visitor tickets from Newton Stewart Angling Association were shoved through my letterbox this morning as I came down to make breakfasts – they do not make nice reading. All visitors stated they would not be returning as they had caught no fish.

Other rivers around us seem having good runs of fish, and visiting anglers to exploit this, so why is the Cree so poor? Let’s not forget that there have been no nets on the Cree now for the past two seasons, so figures are much worse than projected on the various graphs bandied about.

Efforts seem to be made to enhance runs of sparling, lamprey and shad.

However important these rare species may be to the system, and my full sympathy with them, I have to ask what contribution to our economy these have to make? We surely have to put jobs and the economy first and foremost. Cree salmon and sea trout appear to be extremely rare also these days.

The economy of Newton Stewart is becoming heavily dependent on the tourism trade and, like our salmon stocks, that too is in serious decline.

Why is it that the people of Newton Stewart have had to scrimp and save to build their own hatchery? Surely they deserve the strongest of support in what they are trying to achieve.

We have a new addition to habitat restoration in the form of the recently founded River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust and the long-established Galloway Fisheries Trust, but our salmon, like our customers, are still fast disappearing. Is it bureaucracy, politics or finance that is the problem?

Is it just pure neglect of the needs of the Atlantic salmon in the Cree system? The grumblings along the riverbank are that of sheer neglect for many years.

This problem needs 
solving now.

I feel the time has now come to take a radical, proactive and expeditious attack on this decline, put bureaucracy aside and get on with bringing the once prolific runs of Atlantic salmon and sea trout back to this area, as I fear that if it is not sorted now then the Cree will die a slow tortuous death that it will not recover from and, as I have already stated, will have a serious effect on the economy of Newton Stewart and the surrounding area.

S Hollingsworth,

Proprietor, Villa Cree, 
Newton Stewart.

With regard to your article of August 31 headlined “Concern over crisis for fishing”, how sad to hear such reports about the Cree.

I would agree with Jonathan Haley’s optimism with regard to the Cree in the future now that the Newton Stewart Angling Association’s hatchery is well established but I have difficulty in sharing his optimism for the Bladnoch.

I believe any angler who has fished the Bladnoch and Tarff for the past 25 years or more will agree that there has been a long-term decline in the numbers of salmon caught by rod and line, despite much good work done to help sustain fish stocks such as the formation of the Galloway Fisheries Trust, the buying out of nets and improved forestry practice.

Although it is true there has been improved catches during the past year or so, this must surely be largely due to the unusually frequent and prolonged wet weather which has resulted in a huge increase in the number of fishing days available to us. The years prior to this were very poor indeed.

I am a regular (seven or eight times a year) visiting fisherman and have been for nearly 30 years. My own fishing records show that my recent annual catch rate, at very best, is roughly equivalent to that of a single week 25 years ago.

As far as I can gather, Mr Haley, the GFT and the Bladnoch Fishery Board do not seem to accept this decline which, I believe is in stark contrast to the views of anglers who have known the river for many years.

It would be good to see a survey conducted seeking the opinions of local and long-standing visiting anglers about their experiences over the past 25 years or so, perhaps in the form of a questionnaire.

Best wishes and tight lines to all fellow anglers.

Keith Wilds,

10 Western Road, 
Goole, East Yorkshire.