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Tweed Salmon Fisheries

Poaching and Policing

series of Acts of Parliament in the 19th century were intended to regulate net fishing and control poaching on the River Tweed.

The Tweed Acts restricted the methods of fishing and types of nets that could be used to catch salmon on the river. Since the Tweed Act of 1857, the method known as “wear shot” has been the only legal form of salmon netting allowed on the Tweed.

Following the Tweed Act of 1830, bailiffs were appointed to police the salmon fisheries. They were paid for by a levy on the rental value of each fishery.

There were never sufficient water-bailiffs to stop the poaching so, from the 1850s until 1885, a series of naval gunboats manned by Coastguard men patrolled the mouth of the Tweed and supported the work of the civilian bailiffs and local police.

Most of the bailiffs were recruited from outside the district as they were generally hated by the fishermen of Spittal and the Greenses. The bailiffs’ cutters and coastguard vessels were often pelted with stones thrown from the shore by the men and women of Berwick’s fishing communities.

Actions against poaching sometimes led to riots in Spittal and even to naval personnel firing live rounds against local fishermen.

Extracts from contemporary newspapers relating to poaching and policing the Tweed fisheries in Victorian times