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December 13th 2022

New £145,000 fund launched to help save Scotland's iconic wild salmon

A new fund has been launched to help save Scotland's iconic wild salmon through habitat protection, protection from predators, and restocking programmes.

The Salmon Scotland 'wild fisheries fund' will see £145,000 invested by Scotland's salmon farmers next year to stem the decline in fish numbers.

Wild salmon and sea trout populations throughout the UK have been in decline for decades - particularly because of habitat loss and rising river temperatures due to climate change and historic de-forestation.

The Scottish Government has identified other pressures facing wild salmon, including non-native plants, predation by pikes, eels, birds and seals, and obstacles to fish passage including dams and weirs.

The wild fisheries fund replaces and builds on the work of the 'wild salmonid fund', which since 2021 has invested more than £190,000.

It will make more money available to a broader range of organisations and projects and signals Salmon Scotland's long-term commitment to fund schemes.

Wild Atlantic salmon has a survival rate of only around one-to-two per cent, compared to around 85 per cent for a farm-raised salmon.

The wild fisheries fund will be co-ordinated by Jon Gibb, a fisheries manager based in Fort William in the heart of the aquaculture sector, who has championed a constructive relationship between the farm-raised salmon sector and fisheries and angling groups.

He said that "both the farmed and wild salmon sectors have a common interest to thrive in our shared space and both rely on the rich heritage of the wild salmon and the angling that depends upon them".

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott said salmon farmers have a desire to save "one of Scotland's most iconic species".

Applications will be invited from fisheries organisations, including local angling clubs, fishery boards and other community associations.

The wild fisheries fund is part of a total five-year investment of £1.5 million from salmon farmers.

To date, grants have been used to save and restore a historic dam in the Western Isles that assists wild salmon to progress to their spawning grounds, as well as restoration projects to reduce riverbank erosion and measures to provide tree canopy and in-stream cover for young salmon.

The revamped fund will prioritise applications of a practical nature which aim to protect and enhance wild salmon populations and local angling opportunities, recognising that salmon and trout fishing is at the cultural heart of many Highland communities and provides human health benefits.

The fund will be open for applications on February 1 and the closing date will be March 31, with decisions on grants taken by Salmon Scotland in April.

Jon Gibb, co-ordinator of the Salmon Scotland wild fisheries fund, said:

"As a salmon fishery manager with over 25 years of experience on the west coast of Scotland, I am delighted to co-ordinate this fund on behalf of Salmon Scotland.

"Wild salmon are under very serious threat from a wide range of impacts both in the river and at sea, and any projects to further understand those impacts and mitigate against them are urgently required.

"I am also delighted that the fund now covers applications from local angling clubs and other community bodies in the shared space to improve their angling and outreach opportunities - these organisations have often been unable to access significant funding in the past and yet salmon and trout fishing is at the very cultural heart of many Highland communities.

"Both the farmed and wild salmon sectors have a common interest to thrive in our shared space and both rely on the rich heritage of the wild salmon and the angling that depends upon them."

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:

"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 as a result of climate change and habitat destruction.

"Scotland's salmon farmers want to play their part finding solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.

"Many salmon farmers are anglers themselves, and most people in the fisheries and angling sectors recognise the importance of a healthy shared environment, ensuring fish can thrive in our waters.

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

"As well as financial support to projects, our members are sharing their knowledge and experience to support wild fisheries with re-stocking, again showing how collaboration is key to reversing the worrying decline in wild salmon numbers."