The start of the 2013 salmon fishing season on the River Dee will be celebrated on today (February 1st) with an official opening ceremony on the riverbank by Potarch Bridge. Alastair Hume, elder statesman of the Dee, who in several capacities has given over 60 years’ service to the river, will be the guest of honour and will formally open the season.

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board (DDSFB), which has the responsibility for conserving and improving stocks in one of Europe’s most renowned salmon rivers.

Mark Bilsby, River Director of the DDSFB and the River Dee Trust, said: “Whilst we are very proud of our past achievements and 150 years of the Board’s stewardship of the Dee’s salmon stocks, our focus now is very much on the future. Rod catches of salmon continue to improve after a difficult period at the turn of the millennium. The Dee’s catch for 2012 – 7,854 salmon – has placed us in the top three of the league table of Scotland’s rivers. The Dee’s resurgence is testimony to the conservation and environmental improvement policies we have enacted in recent years, not least our conservation code and emphasis on bio-security”.

Mr Bilsby added: “For the Dee’s improvement as a premier salmon river to continue, it is vital that we encourage and nurture young new blood to carry on the important work and traditions on the riverbank. We wish to attract new people with a passion for the river to come and work with us and tap in to all the accumulated wisdom that exists amongst those who have spent decades on the Dee. With this in mind the DDSFB is introducing an annual river worker’s bursary scheme to enable a suitable individual to gain practical experience on the riverbank. We believe that this is the first such scheme in Scotland and we are committing to this for the next 150 years!”

Alastair Hume, a retired bank manager, has played a pivotal role in the development of Aberdeen and District Angling Association from its humble beginnings in 1946 to it becoming Scotland’s premier angling club with 1,100 members and its own fishing beats on the Dee, Don and Ythan rivers.

Alastair, who served as club’s Vice-President or President from 1964 to 2008 and is now the Honorary President, masterminded the club’s acquisitions of fishings. For decades he has worked tirelessly to protect and ensure the Dee’s salmon runs and he cares passionately about the river’s future. He recently retired as a Board member of the DDSFB and currently serves as Voluntary Clerk to DDSFB and as a Trustee of the River Dee Trust.

The DDSFB’s and River Dee Trust’s holistic approach to the health of the river is underlined by the Trust’s involvement in the LIFE+ “Pearls in Peril” (PIP) project, which is designed to secure the future of the freshwater pearl mussel in Great Britain, particularly in Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers such as the Dee. The PIP project on the Dee is worth £2.5m over four years.

The opening ceremony at Potarch Bridge is taking place by kind permission of Ballogie Estate. Refreshments are being provided by Che and Nicola Mueller of the Potarch Hotel and Restaurant and drams are courtesy of the Dalmore Dee Dram.