Money for wild salmon restoration to boost ‘fish king’

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It is an iconic species of Scotland, recognized as a symbol of the country’s habitat around the world and often referred to as ‘the king of fish’.

Now a host of Scottish organizations are in line for increased funding by Scottish salmon farmers, aimed at tackling the decline of Scottish wild salmon.

A historic Victorian dam on the Western Isles is one of five major habitat restoration projects funded out of a total of £120,000 awarded to organizations this year.

The funding is part of a partnership between Salmon Scotland and Fisheries Management Scotland to address the long-term decline in wild salmon populations.

The numbers of wild salmon and sea trout have been declining for decades on the east and west coasts of Scotland, the result of habitat loss and rising river temperatures due to climate change and the historical deforestation.

Now in its second year, the £1.5million ‘Wild Salmonid Fund‘ is funded directly by Salmon Scotland and managed by the independent charity Foundation Scotland.

The West Harris Trust has been awarded £35,000 to save the leaking Fincastle Dam, which supports the west shore of Loch Fincastle and connects the Luskentyre Estuary to fresh water from the loch and the River Laxdale, where wild salmon progresses towards its spawning grounds.

The other four projects funded include just over £20,000 to the Argyll Fisheries Trust to fund improvements to the River Ruel and the River Eachaig on the Cowal Peninsula in southern Argyll to reduce bank erosion rates and fine sediment entering rivers.

Almost £17,000 has been awarded to the Ayrshire Rivers Trust to undertake a restoration project which will aim to address excessive amounts of silt in the Brockloch Burn and the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust has received £22,190 to treat the tree canopy , stream cover and bank erosion issues at 15 sites out of five identified burns in the Lomond watershed.

The Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust has also received £25,729 to purchase practical and technological equipment which will enable the Trust to undertake “an acoustic telemetry monitoring study of adult sea trout”.

Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Salmon farmers share a desire to address the decades-long decline in wild salmon populations, one of Scotland’s most iconic species.

“Wild salmon populations around the world have declined over the past century, and it is essential that we rely on good science to help us focus our attention on the real issues affecting wild salmon populations and trout.

“Habitat loss and rising river temperatures have been identified as major pressures on wild salmon and trout, which return to freshwater rivers to spawn. By supporting community-led projects to restore our rivers, we are helping to reverse the decline in wild salmon numbers and identify solutions that work not just here in Scotland, but globally.

“Salmon farmers are delighted to share their expertise in maximizing salmon survival and to contribute financially to the protection of wild Scottish salmon.
Helen Wray, Head of Philanthropy and Impact at Foundation Scotland, said: “We are proud to continue our partnership with Salmon Scotland to provide the Wild Salmonid Support Fund.

“It’s great to see the range of supported projects that work to conserve and improve wild salmonid habitats in Scotland.”

Built in the 1890s on West Harris, Fincastle Dam leaks badly, with age leading to loss of water in the small waterfall through which salmon must pass into Loch Fincastle and up the river, threatening the whole of the wild salmon run.

In the summer of 2021, the danger to wild salmon has increased significantly due to the dry weather and low rainfall that now characterizes the Hebridean summer climate change.

The collaborative project will aim to protect an important salmon fishery in the Highlands and Islands.

The West Harris Trust said in a statement: ‘We are absolutely delighted to have received this grant from the Wild Salmonid Support Fund. The funds will allow us to repair the historic Fincastle Dam on West Harris and in doing so not only preserve the wild salmon fishery on the Laxdale River, but also provide a unique collaborative opportunity for our community in this remote area. .

Isabel Moore, Senior Biologist at the Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust, said: “The Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust and its project partner, the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London), are delighted to receive this funding, enabling them to study further the marine migration of sea trout in our region.

“This project will provide further insight into the threats sea trout face in the marine environment and help guide the conservation management of wild salmonids in Scotland.”

In East Dunbartonshire, the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust has received a grant of £22,190 to fund a habitat restoration project.

Activities will address tree canopy, stream cover and bank erosion issues at 15 sites across five identified burns in the Lomond watershed.

It is hoped that this initiative will help protect wild salmonid populations in the region.

Malcolm MacCormick of the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust said: “The Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust is absolutely delighted to receive funding from this round of the Wild Salmonid Fund.
“Based on previous work we have undertaken, we are confident that this funding will help restore and improve a number of degraded habitats, leading to an increase in the number of juvenile salmon.”

Stuart Brabbs, trust manager and chief scientific officer of the Ayrshire Rivers Trust, said: “With the number of wild salmon in decline across Scotland, it is essential that river managers improve freshwater habitats where possible to ensure that adults returning from the sea to spawn have the best chance of success.


“This funding will enable Ayrshire Rivers Trust to address the factors limiting salmon production in the Brockloch Burn whilst allowing for more sensitive future management of water margins.

“This restorative approach should not only increase salmon productivity in this burn, but also benefit other freshwater species.”

Alan Kettle-White, Director of Operations at Argyll Fisheries Trust, said: “Argyll Fisheries Trust is delighted to have received funding from the Scotland Foundation which will allow us to double the amount of fish habitat we can improve this year. .

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