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What I would Do to Help Salmon

If you had enough finances to make a difference to the Atlantic salmon. On what would you spend it? This was a question posed by me to facebook followers yesterday.

Salmon with Cane Rod
A nice May Salmon Caught on a Cane Rod


Answers – 


145 people provided replies and here was the breakdown


  1. Predation do something about FEBs, Estuary/River Seals - 34 people.   

  1. Hatcheries - Facebook 44 people  

  1. Improve Water Quality - 5 people 

  1. Fish Farms - 28 people.  

  1. Invertebrate declines – 3 People 

  1. Industrial fishing for salmon food in the ocean [pout] smolts as by-catch - 15 People 

  1. Too many humans acting irresponsibly - 4 people 

  1. Reopen negotiations with Greenland and Faroese to stop netting. Let them know what has happened to stocks since Orri’s death – 6 People 

  1. Get rid of Experts/Scientists - 5 

  1. Habitat restoration -

  1. Invest in what is happening at sea (more targeted science) - 10 



  1. With 31% Hatcheries were the number one thing that anglers suggest we can do to help. 

  1. With 25% Predator control was the second 

  1. With 20% Control of Aquaculture. 

  1. With 11% Overfishing of salmon food [ making fish meal] at sea.  

  1. With 7% More targeted research into what is happening at sea.  



I was quite surprised that more people failed to talk about Water quality and invertebrate decline. Even more shocked I was to find very few people speaking about trying to rekindle Orri’s work and opening new talks or communicating on-going talks with Greenland and The Faroese into their netting of fish in their sector. Only one or two people mentioned the removal of dams as being a priority too. Again, this surprised.  


Looking at the above results I would say the angling community is sure as to the main things that need to be done and I would 100% agree with them on this. However, it is split as to which is most important.  

Hatcheries, Predator control. The regulation of aquaculture is not my area of expertise.  

Aquaculture - It would be fair to assume that it falls within the remit of SEPA to regulate fish farms and there are various plans ongoing to ensure farms deal with Sea Lice properly Personally I have not read this as I simply do not have the time. However, I can see something is happening and there is a plan of a kind, albeit it there will be lots of politics involved. Others are far more clued up on this subject than I am. A few of the salmon Conservation Groups are also involved in this right now.  


In the following I will deal with what we need to do to deal with Predation - Currently there is no “proper” plan to deal with any rogue seals entering Scottish rivers. Nor is there any “proper” plan to deal with non-native Goosanders.  

Given that salmon are now officially endangered, I find it quite incredible that there has been no concerted effort to deal properly with the above. We all know the politics involved; however, we are now at crisis point and eventually common sense must prevail, and we adopt a precautionary approach when it comes to managing salmon and implement physical action. The time for talking, as they say, is now over!  


Below is a summary of the remit of the Missing Salmon Alliance, a Coop of all major Salmon Conservation bodies in the UK.  


They Promote and use your money for -  


  1. Protecting freshwater habitats by addressing barriers to migration and providing cooling shade from native trees;  

  1. improving water quantity and quality, by stopping pollution from agriculture and sewage, tackling over-abstraction and better management of river flows; 

  1. reducing losses of salmon in our rivers, coastal waters, and the open ocean, by addressing the impacts of aquaculture, predation, and by-catch. 


One of the latest Projects is this one -  


  1. The Salmonid Management Round the Channel Project (SAMARCH)  

  This is a four-year research program comprising of four sub-projects that will tag and track salmon in the English Channel estuaries and transitional waters. SAMARCH is a €7.8m five-year project (2017-2022) part funded by the France England Interreg Channel programme. The project will provide new transferable scientific evidence to inform the management of salmon and sea trout (salmonids) in the estuaries and coastal waters of both the French and English sides of the Channel 

  1. Within the SAMARCH project there are four technical work-packages - fish tracking using acoustic tracking technology, genetic tool development, Salmonid stock assessment models and training and engaging with the stakeholders in England and France to maximise the impact of the results generated. 


Another highly publicised idea is - The Likely Suspects Framework 

  is an ambitious project that embraces innovative technology, big data opportunities, and international collaboration to drive forward our efforts to save Atlantic salmon.  

The Likely Suspects Framework (LSF) concept was proposed in 2017 by a group of salmon researchers from the Atlantic and the Pacific basins, as such a process with the goal of providing practical advice to managers and decisionmakers by identifying the main sources of salmon mortality and their cumulative effects across the life cycle of a salmon population of interest. 


Whilst I am sure there are many driven/passionate people behind all the above, personally, I believe if we want a result with wild salmon then we simply must engage the public, and frankly we are failing to do this at every turn. All over the UK I see the same people making the same noises as they have for decades and getting nowhere with those politicians they are trying to influence.   

To get anywhere, we simply must engage the public with regard the plight of the salmon and as we can see with the numbers of people visiting the two costly projects [you tube links above], currently we are failing miserably on this count, and this is where I believe we can be a whole lot better! There is no plan to get the public onside! Like it or loath it, the bottom line is, as far as Jo public is concerned, Salmon are simply a jolly for the Rich! Although everyone reading this knows this to be untrue, it’s not my readers I need to convert, Its Jo Bloggs!  


Something I hear so much is - “Unfortunately the salmon is hidden and doesn't have big round come to me eyes”. Of course this is right, but in the 21st Century, if we want to tell an engaging story, I’m sure, just as we did in Finding Nemo or the lion King, we could give her lovely pair of come to me eyes and a evocative/provocative voice! It is all about the story and how you tell it, the plan for the story. Why you are telling it. Who you are telling it to. To engage with politicians, we first must get the public behind an idea.  

Once the public see that its not “all” about people with tweed jackets and plummy accents. In fact its about people like them and their families. It is about remote parts of the UK having thriving growing economies rather than the taxpayer reliant “research based” economies we are now increasingly relying on.  

It really is about telling the full story and telling it Well, only then will the level of support move from 0.01% of the population to 5% +.  

As someone involved in both salmon angling and the tackle trade, I remember well the massive influence of the film “A river runs through it” on the tackle world. This was a positive but unforeseen byproduct. I am sure a properly thought-out animated film penned by someone like JK Rowling, and characters voiced by people such as e.g. Morgan Freeman would light the touchpaper.  

I have watched the Whisky industry in Scotland booming on the back of a relevant story. It's time we told a few of our own! Can any readers help with any of this?  


The Atlantic Salmon is a gift from the gods, something with the potential to generate so much potential wealth for generations to come in rural areas of the UK.  

It is my belief that properly dealing with rogue seals and Goosanders in Scotland would bring benefits to failing runs of salmon. The film would raise awareness of all other problems and do so much to help all.  

Successive governments, and many people involved have talked plenty within their own peer groups but have failed to help salmon and the time has come for a new approach. I'll be interested to hear from those who would be interested in helping any way with this initiative?  

Companies politically protected whilst flaunting the law on sewage, abstraction, dams, run off, etc need to be held to task too. This would help all. 


Hatcheries – It's all about properly run case studies - Next Time! 



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It’s pretty clear to me that when drift and T-netsmen decline to go offshore or on the foreshore respectively, during the last few weeks of their salmon season and switch to potting that something is up. I’ve met with Orri twice and shown him around a netting port to convince him that his idealism was wrongly-placed, which he accepted and upped the NASF compensation offer.

Replying to

I think to be fair to Orri, he could see the decline in the Greenland and Faroes fishery and knew at that time something needed to be done to "help" protect the stock that remained. None of those measures ever addressed the cause but they did slow the decline. My frustration comes from what we have done with this extra time bought by this and other measures. The answer is, not a great deal.


I think the present system of calculating stocks is seriously flawed as it only relies on fish being caught and throughout the eighties and nineties we saw a 60% decrease in netting activity yet the stocks showed a decline year on year despite all those fish that would have been caught adding to the stock. It was in fact a deception and there was no reliable means of counting fish other than by catching, as fish counters were inaccurate or unreliable as demonstrated on the Tamar. Until there is a reliable means of calculation the state of salmon stocks is not known and is open to manipulation by those with a vested interest.

Replying to

You are 110% correct with this statement Michael. My late employer saw the need for this data back in the 90s and spent a huge sum on a counter which ultimately produced no data. Very frustrating for us all at the time.

My own counting of salmon (mask and snorkel) on my beat through the 80s 90s and 2000s led me to the fact that, generally speaking, as the stock declined so the number caught with rod and line (pro rata) increased.

By the time we got to 2018 Im sure we will have been well in excess of 50%

They have efficient counters in Icelandic and Canadian rivers and consistently catch between 50 and 70%.

This would never have…


John wark
John wark
Feb 19

Well said Ian


Making it easy then, at an average weight: 10lbs, slightly over the actual research findings of c 8 lbs = c 6,000 salmon from mainly Canada and southern Europe, that’s an insignificant amount of Scottish salmon, albeit mainly hens. If we look at the collapse of the buoyant Moray Firth sea-trout catches of the 1950’s, we might understand salmon issues easier. Can’t blame high-seas netting for that and they self-recruit from trout which have not migrated.

Replying to

As a netsman and angler of some seventy odd years I have seen the steady decline of our rivers and especially the Towy and it's tributaries in West Wales. Once renown for sewin(seatrout) of 20 +lb the river has declined not because of the netting activity which is the usual excuse but the stupidity of fresh out of college graduates finding even more bizarre reasons to ruin our beautiful fisheries and the ignorance of those higher ups who were more concerned with other facets of the remit and their own self serving interests. How many projects have we had that has produced nothing but jobs for the boys. What did the Spring salmon by-laws do for the salmon? Nothing. It…


  1. There’s no large scale netting at Greenland. Faroes was long-lining and that is non-existent either as is mixed stock capture off Ireland by D-net. Only Arctic Norway and Labrador, have some capture for indigenous peoples. Northumberland netting is 2 months only and for sea-trout. Virtually no netting in Scotland. Netting cessation was never going to work. Look at home.

Replying to

Stock calculation is not conclusive because most rivers have no accurate means of counting stocks it is mainly down to catch returns and if no one can catch fish they only have inaccurate fish counters that can't distinguish between species and don't work in certain conditions. I think the whole salmon situation was exaggerated to get rid of net fisheries. Orri Vigfusson let the cat out of the bag at a meeting with anglers in Carmarthen (Wales) when he advised them to stick with the EA and together they would get rid of the 'bastard' netsmen.

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