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Fishermen and conservationists call for action to protect Scottish salmon

Urgent action is needed to save Scotland’s rapidly declining salmon population, say some fishermen and conservationists in the country.

Rod and line catch figures have declined, reaching a record high of 35,693 in 2021.

Ian Gordon is a Scottish ghillie who has been fishing the River Spey near Inverness since he was a child, and he now struggles to get as many bites as he used to. He thinks it’s because the herring population is overexploited.

Gordon said that if there were less herring, the salmon had fewer food resources. Then “the salmon become prey themselves,” he added.

“Herring used to be plentiful on the UK coast. It was a species that all species depended on in the UK. Since herring was caught, so has salmon.”

“It is this cycle that is upset when a species is removed from the ecosystem.”

Multiple factors are behind this decline, including overfishing of herring and the effect of climate change on the life cycle of salmon.

“Salmon need cool water to survive and thrive, and with more tree cover and reasonable flows, the water stays relatively cool and that’s good for the salmon,” says Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Wildfish, a fish conservation charity.

“The other thing about the trees is that they provide shade on the river and the shading keeps the water temperature down.

“So we urgently need tree planting programs across the headwaters of all the rivers in Scotland.”

Agriculture and industry have significantly affected forests over the past centuries in the UK, with Scotland losing “probably around 95%” of its tree cover, according to Graham-Stewart.

Around 200,000 trees have already been planted along the banks by the River Dee Trust. Fisheries boards aim to plant one million trees by 2035.

In 2019, local groups removed a concrete weir from the Carron River to improve water flow and allow salmon to flow more freely.

euronews Gt

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