Study aims to help wild salmon survive climate change

© Shutterstock

Warmer temperatures globally are presenting major challenges to Scotland’s wild salmon population, according to Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.

The Scottish Government has announced a £550,000 fund, including £150,000 provided by Crown Estate Scotland, for research into the impacts of climate change and pollution on wild salmon, and on ways to mitigate them – including planting trees by rivers in order to create shade for the fish.

The study will involve sampling of juvenile and adult salmon by local fisheries trusts and boards to collect scales and other biological information from fish captured in rivers throughout Scotland. The data will be used to help target interventions to conserve salmon and increase the numbers and size of wild fish leaving rivers for the ocean. Over the last 40 years, salmon numbers returning from the sea to Scottish rivers have declined by around 40%.

Announcing the fund at Glen Clova in the Highlands, Mairi Gougeon said: “We take the issue of our declining salmon stocks very seriously, with the reasons for it wide-ranging and complex.

“The investment in monitoring will help us to better understand these pressures.

“We know that high river temperatures during the summer are a pressure on wild salmon and we are identifying priority stretches of waterways to target tree planting, providing living parasols to provide shade and encourage good survival and growth of salmon.”

She said the Scottish Government is working with landowners and land managers to encourage them to take measures such as tree planting to support salmon conservation.

Gougeon added: “However, it is believed that salmon mortality at sea has increased in part due to the effect of climate change on ecosystems and shifts in locations where food is abundant.

“That is why it is vital, especially as we head towards COP26 that we continue to address the double challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.”

As part of her visit to Glen Clova, she planted the first tree in an area earmarked for reforestation.

Mairi Gougeon, Rural Affairs Secretary