Scottish government publishes wild salmon conservation plan

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The Scottish government has published a comprehensive plan aimed at ensuring the recovery of the country’s wild Atlantic salmon populations.

Developed in partnership with stakeholders, the Wild Salmon Strategy Implementation Plan covers five priority themes:

  • Managing recreational angling
  • Understanding pressures in marine and coastal environment
  • International collaborations
  • Modernising legislation
  • Improving the condition of rivers

The plan brings together a range of actions being undertaken across government which will benefit wild salmon recovery. Examples include improving salmon habitat through peatland restoration to improve water quality, improving wastewater treatment works and removing more than 90 barriers to migration, such as weirs associated with historic industry.

Salmon are sensitive to rising water temperatures and riverside tree planting projects which help keep river waters cool will increase, while the approach to water scarcity will be reviewed.

A delivery group involving a range of stakeholders will oversee progress of the plan and publish an annual report, while a Scientific Advisory Board will be established to coordinate research and monitoring activities.

The government is also committed to carrying out an analysis of the environmental and socio-economic benefits arising from a healthy wild salmon population.

Launching the plan at the opening of the salmon fishing season on the River Tweed, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “Scotland is recognised globally as a stronghold for Atlantic salmon, but statistics show a downward trend in the numbers returning to Scottish rivers.

“It is vital that we act together at home and overseas, using our collective resource, knowledge and expertise to ensure a bright  future for this iconic species and the plan, working with a range of partners, addresses the issue with a wide range of actions .

“Crucially, it is dynamic and adaptable, so the work to support salmon restoration can be adjusted as we gain greater insight into the challenges and success of mitigating actions.”

The plan also refers to the Scottish government’s response, published in October 2021, to the recommendations made by the Salmon Interactions Working Group (SIWG).

These include an ongoing consultation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on proposals for an “adaptive spatially-based risk assessment framework” for fish farms, to help minimise the impact of sea lice on wild salmonids, to be applied through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

The Scottish government has also pledged to make fish farm containment measures and regulation more robust, including the introduction of penalties for fish farm escapes.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon

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