Project seeking to reveal secret lives of wild Atlantic salmon enters its second year

It's an ambitious project that aims to reveal the secret lives of one of Scotland's most iconic species.

Wild Atlantic salmon start their lives in streams and rivers, migrate to the high seas to grow and then return home to spawn.

However, little is known about their migration routes as they leave Scottish rivers.

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An initiative using transmitters to keep track of the fish is now set to enter its second year, backed by £400,000 from the Scottish Government.

Picture: Getty Images

Atlantic salmon travel large distances to feeding grounds and can be found in far-flung places including the seas off Greenland.

But the species is now in serious decline and the West Coast Tracking Project is part of a broad range of measures seeking to help.

It involves tagging young salmon with miniature acoustic transmitters, each with its own unique signature, as their migration begins.

Strategically placed receivers record the signal from each tag, allowing the progress of individual fish to be tracked as they pass multiple listening sites.

This is combined with data such as sea lice distribution and ocean currents and seeks to inform planning and regulation, as well as decisions around locating offshore renewable installations.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “The revival of salmon populations and the habitats they depend on will provide multiple benefits to society and will play a significant role in our ambitions for the rural economy.

“The suite of measures we are taking across Scotland underlines our commitment to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“At the same time, we continue to argue for greater collective action across the international arena.”

The project is managed by the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fisheries Management Scotland and Marine Scotland, and is funded by the Scottish Government, industry body Salmon Scotland and private donations.

Mark Bilsby, chief executive of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, said: “The funding from the Scottish Government will enable the work to be developed in 2022 so that we have a greater understanding of how young salmon are using our coastal areas.

"This practical information is key so that we can better protect wild Atlantic salmon.”

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