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Wild salmon stock decline sparks vow to protect species

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said figures showing catches have fallen to a record low are of ‘great concern’.

Salmon catches in Scotland are at their lowest since 1952 (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Salmon catches in Scotland are at their lowest since 1952 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The decline in wild salmon in Scotland is of great concern, the Environment Secretary has said.

Salmon catches have dropped to their lowest level since records began in 1952, according to official Scottish Government figures.

The total reported catch through rod fishing is 37,196 for 2018, 67% of the previous five-year average.

The vast majority of these, 93%, were caught and then released back into the water.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The decline in wild salmon numbers is of great concern and I’m determined that we safeguard the future of this important species.

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Most fisherman returned the salmon they caught to the water (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The problem is down to a range of complex factors, many of which are outwith our control, including the unprecedented water shortages Scotland experienced last summer.

“We have identified 12 groups of high-level pressures on the species, and we’re working closely with key partners to address these.

“Last year, for example, we committed £500,000 to fund research so we can better understand the problem and mitigate against it.

“In addition, we are providing around £5 million a year to the Water Environment Fund to allow Sepa (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to remove barriers to fish migration in rivers around Scotland.

“I’d also like to highlight the conservation efforts of Scotland’s anglers last year, who returned such high numbers of the salmon they caught.”

Her comments follow concern from Fisheries Management Scotland chief executive Alan Wells that Scotland’s wild salmon is at “crisis point”, and he called for conservation of the species to be made a “national priority”.

He said some interventions have already helped but he urged more action, adding: “This will require Scottish Government and agencies to co-ordinate their efforts to protect salmon in a way that really isn’t happening currently.”

PA

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