Wild fishery organisations in Scotland have re-expressed their concern over the annoucement by Stewart Stevenson MSP (above), Minister for Environment and Climate Change, that he will not sanction the removal of feral beavers in Tayside for the time being. Mr Stevenson said on Friday (16) that the beavers will be allowed to remain and be monitored until 2015 at the conclusion of the official beaver re-introduction experiment in Knapdale on Scotland's west coast. A decision will then be taken on the future reintroduction of beaver into the whole of Scotland.
The Tayside beavers were introduced illegally around 10 years ago, and the population is now thought to be around 100-120. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to deliberately release beavers into the wild.
Mr Stevenson said: "After careful consideration, my view is that the best way forward is to allow the beavers to remain inplace for the duration of the official trial beaver re-introduction in Knapdale in Argyll." Mr Stevenson also announced the setting up of a group to be chaired by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which will gather information and monitor impacts on other wildlife and land use. The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) is one of the monitoring groups.
Dr Alan Wells, Policy and Planning Director for the ASFB, said: “As the Minister has accepted, the beavers in Tayside have been introduced or released irresponsibly, and almost certainly illegally, in contravention of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines for species introductions. It is highly regrettable that these animals – of unknown origin and disease status – were not removed as soon as their presence was identified”.
Dr Wells continued: “We do appreciate however that the failure to take swift remedial action has placed the Minister in an invidious position. We will, to the best of our ability, support him and his agencies in monitoring and managing the Tayside beaver population”.
Andrew Wallace, chairman of RAFTS, added: “It must be recognised that the current situation undermines the credibility of the Knapdale trial. We support the idea that the feral population within the Tay catchment should be managed as suggested but believe that any animals detected outside the catchment should be removed forthwith and without prevarication to prevent any further spread and thus any further damage to the Knapdale trial”.
Dr David Summers, Director of the Tay District Salmon Fishery Board, said: “The Tayside beaver saga highlights the importance of ensuring that the law is strengthened to ensure that animals kept in captivity are traceable and that the highest standards of containment are adopted to prevent escapes”.