Sustainable Scotland: Fish farmers provide £120,000 funding boost for projects working to save wild salmon and sea trout

Five conservation schemes aimed at improving the survival chances of wild salmon and sea trout in Scotland have received a cash boost from the fish farming industry.

The projects, which are based across western Scotland – from the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye to Loch Lomond, Argyll and Ayrshire – will share £120,000 of funding for habitat restoration work for the iconic fish.

They include work to repair a leaky Victorian dam in West Harris which has been hampering movements of fish and impacting their ability to breed.

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The grants come from the £1.5 million Wild Salmonid Fund – set up in a partnership between fish farming membership body Salmon Scotland and Fisheries Management Scotland, which represents district salmon fishery boards and charitable rivers and fisheries trusts.

Now in its second year, the fund is financed by Salmon Scotland, formerly known as the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, and managed by independent charity Foundation Scotland.

The latest recipients are: West Harris Trust; Argyll Fisheries Trust; Ayrshire Rivers Trust; Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust; and Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust.

Scottish rivers are home to around 90 per cent of all wild Atlantic salmon in the UK, but surveys suggest populations have fallen to a quarter of their 1980 levels.

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Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust is one of five groups sharing £120,000 of funding for projects aimed at boosting declining wild salmon and sea trout populations across Scotland -- it will use a grant of £22,190, from the Scottish fish farming industry, to address tree canopy, in-stream cover and bank erosion issues at 15 sites in five burns across the catchment area

The crash has been so dramatic that experts fear the king of fish may vanish entirely.

If declines continue at the current rate, it’s estimated the species will be on the endangered list in less than ten years.

A number of factors have been blamed – including loss of habitat, rising river temperatures caused by climate change, historical deforestation and the impacts of fish farming.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Salmon farmers have a shared desire to address the decades-long decline in wild salmon populations – one of Scotland’s most iconic species.

Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust secured £25,729 to purchase technological equipment that will enable tracking studies of adult sea trout

“Wild salmon populations across the world have decreased over the past century, and it is vital that we rely on good science to help focus our attention on the real issues that are affecting wild salmon and trout populations.

“Habitat loss and rising river temperatures have been identified as major pressures on wild salmon and trout, which return to freshwater rivers to breed.

“By supporting community-led projects to restore our rivers we are playing our part in reversing the decline in wild salmon numbers and identifying solutions that not only work here in Scotland, but globally.

“Salmon farmers are delighted to share their expertise in maximising salmon survival and make a financial contribution to protect wild Scottish salmon.”

West Harris Trust has been awarded £35,000 to save the leaking Fincastle dam, a Victorian construction which supports the western bank of Loch Fincastle and connects the Luskentyre estuary with the freshwater of the loch and the Laxdale river, where wild salmon progress to their spawning grounds

Helen Wray, head of philanthropy and impact at Foundation Scotland, said: “We are proud to continue our partnership with Salmon Scotland to deliver the Wild Salmonid Support Fund.

“It’s great to see the range of projects supported that are working to conserve and enhance the habitats of wild salmonids in Scotland.”

West Harris Trust has been awarded £35,000 to save the leaking Fincastle dam, which supports the western bank of Loch Fincastle and connects the Luskentyre estuary with the freshwater of the loch and the Laxdale river, where wild salmon progress to their spawning grounds.

A spokesperson for West Harris Trust said: “The funds will enable 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 region of Scotland.”

Argyll Fisheries Trust got £20,342 to fund improvement works at River Ruel and River Eachaig on the Cowal peninsula which will reduce rates of riverbank erosion and the quantity of fine sediment entering the rivers.

Ayrshire Rivers Trust received £16,775 to curb silting in the Brockloch Burn.

Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust will use £22,190 to address tree canopy, in-stream cover and bank erosion issues at 15 sites in five burns across the catchment area.

Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust secured £25,729 to purchase technological equipment that will enable tracking studies of adult sea trout.

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