- 22nd October 2019
- Posted by: Miranda Pont
- Category: Blog
The theme of this year’s conference to mark the 50 years since the founding of the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM), was ‘Learning from the past to inform the future’. David Mould has been telling us more:
Two weeks ago I attended the IFM annual conference along with a number of my colleagues. The underlying message from this 50th anniversary year was that change is happening to our environment, and the methods and management practices employed in the past will need to evolve to meet the challenges of the future.
There was significant discussion around the impacts and consequences of climate change to the way we approach the management and restoration of rivers. Since climate change is likely to broadly lead to an increase in water temperatures, this may start to exclude some fish and introduce new species that are more suited to the warmer temperatures.
This in turn leads to a number of questions: should we accept a new baseline? When we’re managing and restoring rivers, what are we aiming for – a pristine aquatic environment? To improve and manage what is already there? Or should we be future-proofing our freshwater environments to include habitat for fish species which may be there in the coming years?
The conference also provided a good opportunity to reflect on the regulatory changes that have occurred over the last 50 years since the establishment of the IFM, including an observation about the perceived reduction in the number of fisheries staff within regulatory bodies.
Carys Hutton from our Ecology team presented during the ‘Rewilding’ session of the conference on a catchment wide approach to re-wilding with specific focus on the Middle Calder. David Mould also presented a poster on the use of computational fluid dynamics in fish passage design.
One area of potential positivity that was identified is ecosystem services and natural capital. Fish populations undoubtedly bring great benefit to the wider economy, both financially and socially. If a stronger financial case could be made and the natural capital of fisheries pushed higher up the agenda, this could strengthen regulations and increase efforts to restore sustainable fisheries.
However much of the perceived natural capital of fish populations is based around recreational angling. A number of the conference talks focussed on the decline in the number of people participating in recreational angling, raising questions about the future of catch and release angling. How would a continued decline in recreational angling (or a total ban) affect the natural capital provided by the fishery? If recreational angling thrives, should we then design river improvement schemes to maximise the angling interest and associated revenue?
David concluded: An excellent conference – I’ve been left with plenty to ponder!