Scottish salmon farmers fund wild salmon gene bank

Editorial Staff

In 2023, wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland were officially classified as an endangered species.

Scottish salmon farmers are backing a groundbreaking gene bank project among seven major environmental initiatives to help save wild salmon and sea trout.

Through Salmon Scotland’s wild fisheries fund, nearly £140,000 has been allocated this year to combat long-term species decline, part of a £1.5 million commitment to conserving wild fish populations.

Otter Ferry Seafish in Tighnabruaich has received £49,404 to collaborate with Argyll fisheries experts on developing a gene bank aimed at boosting threatened salmon populations.

This four-year project, in partnership with the Argyll Fisheries Trust and the River Ruel Improvement Association, seeks to replenish regional rivers and create a blueprint for a genetic insurance network across Scotland.

Additionally, £10,000 has been allocated for erosion control on the River Ruel, enhancing habitats through tree planting and fencing. This marks the third year of funding for this initiative.

Wild salmon and sea trout populations in the UK have been declining due to habitat loss and rising temperatures, with marine survival rates plummeting to just one to five percent. The Scottish Government identifies other pressures such as non-native plants, predation, and barriers like dams and weirs.

Salmon farming companies, operating exclusively on the west coast, Orkney, and Shetland, launched the fund to support wild fish conservation. More than £335,000 has been invested since 2021, including a £35,000 grant to repair the Fincastle Dam on West Harris.

Other funded projects this year include:

  • Ayrshire Rivers Trust: £17,026 for addressing riverbank erosion at the Mauchline Burn.
  • Galloway Fisheries Trust: £22,697 to reduce acidity in the River Bladnoch using crushed scallop shells.
  • Uig Lodge Lettings: £10,000 for improvements to the Fhorsa River on the Isle of Lewis.
  • Carloway Estate Trust: £6,305 for surveying and improving spawning beds on the Carloway River.
  • River Eachaig Fishery Syndicate: £24,376 for habitat improvements in Argyll.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, emphasized the farmers’ commitment to reversing the decline of wild salmon through community-led projects.

“Wild salmon is one of Scotland’s most iconic species, but there has been a decades-long decline on the east and west coasts of Scotland due to climate change and habitat destruction.

“Scotland’s salmon farmers are determined to find solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.

“We actively contribute to reversing this decline by supporting community-led projects to restore our rivers and lochs, making a positive global impact.

“Through the extraordinary success story of farm-raised salmon, we have developed world-leading expertise in hatching and rearing salmon that thrive at sea.

“Our members not only fund projects but also share their expertise to help restock wild fisheries, contributing to reversing the decline in wild salmon numbers.”

Jon Gibb, coordinator of the wild fisheries fund, highlighted the crucial role of these initiatives in conserving endangered wild Atlantic salmon.

“The wild fisheries fund provides a rare and exceptional opportunity for rural and coastal communities to access vital funds aimed at improving their local rivers and lochs.

“In 2023, wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland were officially classified as an endangered species. “It’s fantastic to support a variety of innovative projects dedicated to conserving and enhancing habitat, particularly for species facing extinction in certain areas. “Wild salmon are currently facing a deep and dire crisis, and the aquaculture sector can play a crucial role in reducing their decline.”

The gene bank project aims to preserve genetic material of threatened populations using advanced genetic screening, helping to restock rivers and set a model for other regions. Collaboration with the Argyll Fisheries Trust and the River Ruel Improvement Association ensures the project combines wild fishery expertise with controlled aquaculture practices.

The River Eachaig project addresses significant bank erosion and aims to protect the river for future biodiversity through fencing and planting vulnerable areas.

These initiatives reflect the salmon farming sector’s active role in addressing environmental challenges and supporting the sustainable management of wild fish populations.


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