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Scotland seeks to solve salmon crisis

Holyrood says that it will make £700,000 of new funding available to help reverse the dramatic declines in Scottish wild salmon stocks.

wild salmon

Wild salmon leaping upstream at the Philiphaugh cauld near at Selkirk in the Scottish Borders

The Scottish Government has pledged £700,000 to tackle declining wild salmon stocks.

With survival rates for salmon at sea having dropped to just five per cent, ministers say that the money will help to fund new research and activities and mitigate damaging factors such as predation, illegal poaching and salmon farming.

Range of factors

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “No single one of these, tackled alone, will secure the recovery of our wild salmon stocks. The decline in wild salmon numbers is due to a range of complex factors and is of great concern — we must do all we can to safeguard the future of this iconic species.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association Fishing Group welcomed Holyrood’s pledge: “It is heartening to see Scottish Government looking into declines in the round. It is known we cannot get to grips with all the causes of salmon mortality at sea, but we can make sure we are doing what we can to safeguard salmon when they are here.

“We hope the investment will be targeted at declining salmon rather than all being swallowed up in streamlining governance processes.

“Conservation measures on rivers were the first steps taken by Government, so tackling the many other factors identified in the announcement is now overdue. Smolt-tagging work on the river Dee recently highlighted the problems of predation. The decisions of Scottish Government around fish farm expansion — currently being reviewed at Holyrood — will be an indicator as to the level of Government commitment which exists to addressing wild salmon declines on the west coast.”


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“Irrevocable damage”

The announcement came in the same week that the Scottish Government’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee released a report warning that salmon farming could lead to “irrecoverable damage” to the environment if key issues are not addressed. It also highlighted a “lack of progress” in dealing with certain issues surrounding salmon farming identified more than 15 years ago and said that “unacceptable levels of mortality” among salmon stocks still persist.

Responding to the report, Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland, said: “This is a vindication of what we have been arguing for many years now, often in the face of denials and opposition from within Scottish Government and public authorities, that open cage salmon farming in sea lochs is way out of balance with the environment, particularly with the conservation of wild salmon and sea trout.”