Wild Fisheries Fund invites next round of grant applications

Jon Gibb

The latest phase of a conservation fund set up by Scotland’s salmon industry has started with a call for funding proposals for this year.

The Salmon Scotland Wild Fisheries Fund was created to help save Scotland’s wild salmon by restoring habitats, providing protection from predators, and encouraging river restocking schemes.

The fund will see £140,000 invested by Scotland’s salmon farmers over the course of the coming year to help address the decline in fish numbers.  This comes as part of a wider five-year investment of £1.5 million from salmon farmers.

The fund is open to all river catchment organisations throughout the whole of Scotland in 2024, but organisers have suggested that there is a particular interest in projects in the shared zone of aquaculture and wild salmon fisheries.

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

The 2024 fund will again be co-ordinated by Jon Gibb (pictured, above), 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: “As a salmon fishery manager with over 25 years of experience on the west coast of Scotland, I am again delighted to co-ordinate this fund on behalf of Salmon Scotland.

“In 2023 wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland were officially classed as an endangered species.

“This keystone species is 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 is now available to all Scottish river management organisations including on the east coast of Scotland which has seen a more marked decline in recent years in wild salmon populations than the west coast.”

Initially conceived in 2021 as the Wild Salmonid Fund before being rebranded last year, the initiative moves into its fourth year having already invested more than £335,000 in relevant projects.

Last year Salmon Scotland launched a dedicated website (www.wildfisheriesfund.co.uk) to support the fund, ensuring transparency on the amount of funding projects received.

Every project which has received funding since 2021 is listed, and visitors can keep up to date on progress.

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 restoration of Fincastle Dam, West Harris is one of the projects supported by the Wild Fisheries Fund

Endangered species

Wild salmon and sea trout populations throughout the UK have been in decline for decades – particularly because of habitat loss and rising river and sea temperatures.

These fish now have a marine survival rate of just 1%-5%, compared to around 25% only three decades ago.

The Scottish Government says fish farming has affected wild salmon populations, but it has identified other pressures, including non-native plants, predation by fish, birds and seals, and obstacles to fish passage including dams and weirs.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, commented: “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 continue playing their part in 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.”

Author

Keep up with us

Posted in ,
Fish Farmer February 2024 cover, net pens in winter with snow

The February 2024 issue of Fish Farmer is out now online