Salmon farms fund fight to halt drop in wild salmon and sea trout stocks

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Scotland’s salmon farmers have granted their latest share of £1.5million to projects tackling the decline of wild salmon stocks in Scottish rivers – a fall conservationists have blamed partly on salmon farms themselves.

Both the Argyll and Lochaber Fisheries Trusts have been awarded nearly £20,000 each to restore habitat in the Dalvuie Burn near Oban, and assess young salmonid numbers in rivers in Fort William and Ardnamurchan.

‘To help tackle the current decline in wild salmon and sea trout within Scottish rivers, more than £70,000 has just been awarded to organisations across Scotland working to enhance and protect wild fisheries and habitats,’ announced the fund’s managing charity, Foundation Scotland.

‘The awards were made by the Wild Salmonid Support Fund, a new fund created by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) and financed directly from Scotland’s salmon farm companies. Launched back in April, the new fund is part of a five-year programme that will see £1.5 million invested in supporting the status of wild salmon and sea trout stocks in Scottish rivers and enhance wild fisheries.

‘The fund attracted applications from charitable organisations all over Scotland. This week, the successful applicants were announced with five projects receiving funding, their awards ranging from £9,025 to £19,600.

‘One successful applicant was Argyll Fisheries Trust which received £18,600 to invest in habitat restoration in the Dalvuie Burn near Oban. The trust’s restoration project aims to improve the recruitment of sea trout in local waters. The burn is a typical coastal stream flowing into the north shore of Loch Etive at the Falls of Lora, Argyll and an important habitat for spawning and juvenile nurseries, vital to the recruitment of sea trout in the area.’

Alan Kettle-White from Argyll Fisheries Trust said: ‘Argyll Fisheries Trust and our project partners are delighted to receive funding from the Wild Salmonid Support Fund to deliver fish habitat improvements on the Dalvuie Burn. The project aims to improve fish spawning and juvenile habitat for the sea trout and benefit wider biodiversity and local fisheries.’

In the Outer-Hebrides, Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) received a grant of £9,251 to undertake a project that will aim to improve salmon spawning grounds on the Carloway river. Activities will revolve around the replenishment of gravel beds, and the trust hope to recreate a natural habitat that will enhance spawning opportunities for wild salmonid.

Sally Reynolds from Carloway Estate Trust said: ‘Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh are delighted to have received support from the Wild Salmonid Support Fund. The grant will allow us to improve our reeds by addition of suitable gravel, which will improve the spawning conditions for our fish. We look forward to working together as a community to make this practical project happen.’

Lochaber Fisheries Trust was also granted £19,600 to fund the implementation of juvenile surveys, which will assess fish densities and genetic diversity in eight local rivers.

The Wild Salmonid Support Fund said: ‘Fisheries Management Scotland and the SSPO recognise and share the concerns over the overall declining status of wild salmonids in Scottish rivers. Scotland has a rich history of salmon resources, and this heritage relies on ensuring a long-term future for wild salmonid stocks. The Scottish salmon farming sector enjoys its strong reputation and success partly due to this wild salmonid heritage. Both parties wish to ensure that the shared connected waters where the salmon farming sector operates are as good an environment for wild salmonids as they should be.’

The Wild Salmonid Support Fund is scheduled to reopen to new applications in spring 2022.

The Oban Times contacted the the Salmon & Trout Conservation Society and the Atlantic Salmon Trust for comment prior to going to press.