Launching this month and running for up to 15 weeks, the Scottish Government research project will see up to 750 salmon caught and acoustically tagged off the north coast of Scotland with a network of receivers deployed around the country to detect where those fish then go.
The scientific study will look to find out how coastal fisheries link to different rivers, as well as increasing understanding of salmon homing behaviour and breeding spots.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “We know Atlantic salmon can migrate thousands of miles from home rivers to high seas feeding grounds and back to spawn. Exactly how they find their home river again remains a mystery.
“While a number of historic tagging studies have shown that fish captured in coastal nets at one location have then been recaptured in nets much further around the coast, our knowledge of how they came to that point is still very limited.
“This new study will look to provide us with further insight into this iconic species’ behaviour which will help to determine whether we are striking the right balance between conservation and the interests of those who fish for salmon and what further action might be needed to protect stocks for future generations.”
Alan Wells, chief executive of Fisheries Management Scotland said: “Fisheries Management Scotland, and many of our member District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fisheries Trusts, are engaged with this important research – the largest project of its kind to be undertaken in Scotland. The involvement of local fisheries managers has resulted in over 60 acoustic receivers being deployed in around 26 Scottish rivers, in addition to helping facilitate more detailed surveys of rivers in the autumn.
“We are encouraging all anglers in Scotland to be on the lookout for tagged Atlantic salmon. By removing these externally placed acoustic tags and returning them to Marine Scotland, anglers can play a crucial part in increasing our understanding of the coastal movements of salmon. Increasing our knowledge of how salmon come back to Scotland will help us to manage this fragile resource.”
The tags will be numbered and will include addresses and telephone numbers, with fishermen who catch the tagged salmon urged to return and report the tags to Scottish Government scientists.