Official data from the Scottish government reveal that 2018 was the worst year on record for wild salmon catches.
Last year in Scotland, a total of 37,196 wild salmons were caught and released, representing just 67% of the previous five-year average total. It is the lowest since records began in 19521.
“This iconic species is now approaching crisis point,” said Alan Wells, Chief executive of Fisheries Management Scotland, - the representative organisation for the District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fisheries Trusts in Scotland2.
Alan Wells, the director of Fisheries Management Scotland, says each salmon river faces different challenges, of differing severity. In the north, they come from hydro-electric dams blocking salmon migration routes; on the west coast they are hit by sea lice, parasites attracted by large commercial salmon farms in numerous sea lochs; inland, pollution from farms affects water quality3.
Scottish’s anglers and campaigners have for a long time pointed at several factors to be blamed for the decline in salmon numbers:
- open-net salmon farming, which facilitates sea lice transmission and releases in the surrounding environment. The sea lice attack and feed on the host fish, eventually causing their death.
- fish predators, in particularly goosanders, cormorants and seals
- numerous man-made barriers - such as hydroelectric dams or weirs – which are blocking salmon migration routes and the access to their spawning grounds, thus preventing them from breeding.
The impact on Scotland’s local economy of the decline in salmon numbers is worrying. The salmon recreational fishing sector in Scotland is struggling, as fewer anglers are turning up. In Scotland about 2,800 jobs are supported by angling and it contributes ca. £100m to the economy4.
Scotland’s government agencies and stakeholders must undertake coherent actions and set the protection of wild salmon as a top priority, even more so this year, the "International Year of the Salmon”5.
Learn more about EAA and EFTTA position on the subject:
Recfishing forum event on sustainable fish farming organised in the European Parliament in June 2018:
The Independent, “Wild salmon population ‘at crisis point’ with catches in Scotland at lowest level on record “, 24th April 2019: