Scotland's wild salmon crisis deepens

Fisheries Management Scotland call for urgent Government action in response to this year's lowest wild catches ever recorded

Conservation groups around Scotland have joined forces to call for urgent government action to save the country’s wild salmon stocks and stem rural job losses.

Today saw the release of the official Scottish Government catch statistics. 35,693 Atlantic salmon and 12,636 sea trout were caught in 2021, which are the lowest catches since records began in 1952. They follow years of sustained declines in salmon numbers, affecting rivers across the country.

Everyone who values their local rivers and their iconic wild salmon is being urged to join a national Call to Action, to speed up delivery of critically-important conservation measures.

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland said, “The Scottish Government recognise in the Wild Salmon Strategy that there is now unequivocal evidence that populations of Atlantic salmon are now at crisis point. The latest figures underline just how grave the situation has become. We are urging the Government to deliver its existing commitments without delay, and to go much further in all the areas where they have the power to make a difference. And we are asking all members of the public to join that call to action.

“An iconic national species is at stake, along with the ecosystems which rely on healthy runs of returning salmon. And fragile rural economies which are already struggling because of Covid restrictions and the cost of living crisis are facing a further squeeze from a decline in angling income. Jobs have gone. More are now on the line.”

For Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, there is a clear link between the expansion of Scottish salmon factor farms and the decline of their wild relatives. He said -

"One of the areas where Scottish Government has the power to reverse or at least mitigate declines in wild salmon and sea trout stocks is in the west Highlands and Islands where the negative impacts of salmon farming, particularly the production and dispersal of sea lice parasites, which kill juvenile wild salmon and sea trout.

"Scottish Government has singularly failed to initiate regulatory measures to tackle this vital issue, despite it being one of the main recommendations of the Scottish Parliament's Inquiry into salmon farming in 2018. Almost four years on and nothing meaningful has happened to stem the spread of deadly sea lice. On the contrary Scottish Government has cynically presided over the continuing expansion of the salmon farming industry, thus exacerbating the problems for wild fish.

"Unfortunately some of those organisations who profess to prioritising wild fish conservation have fallen into the trap of accepting Scottish Government and/or industry cash and thus are fundamentally compromised when it comes to applying real pressure, without fear or favour, on Scottish Government to act."

Don Staniford, Director of $camon $cotland, went further - saying -

"The Scottish Government has shamefully sold wild salmon down the river. The health of wild fisheries has been sacrificed to promote the unhealthy expansion of foreign owned fish farms. If Scottish Ministers were really concerned about the protection of wild salmon then they would immediately close down lice-infested salmon farms. Healthy wild salmon populations are incompatible with disease-ridden feedlots."