The latest phase of a fund to help save Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon by restoring habitats, providing protection from predators and encouraging river restocking schemes is open for applications.
The Salmon Scotland wild fisheries fund will see £140,000 invested by the country’s salmon farmers over the course of the next year to help address the decline in fish numbers, as part of a wider five-year investment of £1.5 million.
The fund is open to all river catchment organisations throughout the whole of Scotland, but organisers have suggested that there is a particular interest in projects in the shared zone of aquaculture and wild salmon fisheries.
Wild salmon and sea trout populations throughout the UK have been in decline for decades and now have a marine survival rate of under 5 per cent, compared to around 25 per cent only three decades ago.
Pressures facing wild salmon include aquaculture, climate change, habitat loss, non-native plants, predation by fish, birds and seals, as well as obstacles to fish migration, such as dams and weirs.
A solid track record
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 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 2024 fund will again be co-ordinated by Jon Gibb, a fisheries manager based in Fort William, who has championed a constructive relationship between the farm-raised salmon sector and fisheries and angling groups.
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.
Jon Gibb, co-ordinator of the Salmon Scotland wild fisheries fund, said in a press release: "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.”