A historic Victorian dam on the Western Isles is among five major habitat restoration projects being funded by Scotland’s salmon farmers that are aimed at tackling the decline in wild Scottish salmon.

A total of £120,000 has been granted to organisations this year as part of a partnership between Salmon Scotland and Fisheries Management Scotland to address the long-term decline in wild salmon populations.

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

The 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. 

Wild salmon and sea trout numbers have been in decline for decades on both the east and west coasts of Scotland - the result of habitat loss and rising river temperatures due to climate change and historic de-forestation.

The other four projects awarded funds are:

  • Argyll Fisheries Trust - £20,342 to fund improvement works at River Ruel and River Eachaig in the Cowal Peninsula, located in South Argyll, to reduce rates of riverbank erosion and fine sediment entering the rivers.
  • Ayrshire Rivers Trust - £16,775 to undertake a restoration project that will aim to address excessive amounts of silt in the Brockloch Burn.
  • Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust - £22,190 to address tree canopy, in-stream cover and bank erosion issues in 15 sites over five identified burns across the Lomond catchment area.
  • Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust - £25,729 to purchase practical and technological equipment that will enable the Trust to undertake an acoustic telemetry tracking study of adult sea trout.


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.

“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.”

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."

Built in the 1890s on West Harris, the Fincastle dam is leaking badly with age resulting in a loss of water to the small waterfall up which salmon must pass into Loch Fincastle and on up the river, threatening the entire wild salmon run. 

In the summer of 2021, the danger to the wild salmon increased considerably because of the dry weather and low rainfall that is now a feature of climate change in the Hebridean summer.

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

The West Harris Trust commented:

“We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this grant by The Wild Salmonid Support Fund. 

“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."

The Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust received a grant of £25,720 to undertake an acoustic telemetry tracking study of adult sea trout. 

This project will better understand the key drivers for different patterns of sea trout behaviour, movement, and survival in waters around the Isle of Skye. 

The Trust hopes to share the study results with key stakeholders in the region, including those active in aquaculture. 

Isabel Moore, senior biologist at the Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust said:

"The Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust and their project partner, the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London), are thrilled to receive this funding, enabling them to investigate further the marine migration of sea trout in our area. 

“This project will provide further information about threats faced by sea trout in the marine environment and help guide the conservation management of wild salmonids in Scotland." 

In East Dunbartonshire, The Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust was awarded a grant of £22,190 to go towards a habitat restoration project.

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

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

Malcolm MacCormick of Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust said: 

"The Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust is absolutely delighted to receive funding from this round of the Wild Salmonid Fund. 

“From previous work we have undertaken we are confident that this funding will help restore and enhance a number of degraded habitats, leading to increased juvenile salmon numbers."

Stuart Brabbs, trust manager and senior scientific officer with the Ayrshire Rivers Trust, said:

“With wild salmon numbers declining across Scotland, it is essential that river managers improve freshwater habitats wherever 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 factors limiting salmon production within the Brockloch Burn while allowing more sensitive future management of water margins. 

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

Alan Kettle-White, director of operations with Argyll Fisheries Trust, said:

“Argyll Fisheries Trust are delighted to have received funding from Foundation Scotland which will enable us to double the amount of fish habitat we can improve this year.”

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