£145,000 on offer to help save wild salmonids
Fish farming industry-backed fund opened up to wide range of groups
A fish farming industry fund offering grants to help improve conditions for Scotland’s wild salmon opens for applications tomorrow.
Sector body Salmon Scotland’s Wild Fisheries Fund 2023 will see £145,000 invested this year as part of a £1.5 million commitment from salmon farmers.
Projects which receive grants will aim to stem the decades-long decline in wild fish numbers through habitat protection, protection from predators, and restocking programmes.
Although some anglers and critics of the industry blame lice from salmon pens for the decline, wild salmon and trout populations began falling long before the industry was established, and are doing so in areas where no fish farming takes place.
Salmon Scotland said habitat loss and rising river temperatures primarily due to climate change have impacted on wild salmon and sea trout populations throughout the UK and all over the Scottish coastline.
Salmon farming companies, which only operate on the west coast, launched the fund to play their part finding solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector, and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.
This year, money will be available to a broad range of organisations and projects in Scotland’s aquaculture zone, including local angling clubs, fishery boards and other community associations.
Previously called the Wild Salmonid Fund, more than £190,000 has already been invested since 2021 in restoration projects to reduce riverbank erosion and measures to provide tree canopy and in-stream cover for young salmon.
The new fund will be open for applications on February 1 and the closing date will be March 31, with decisions on grants taken by Salmon Scotland in April.
It will be co-ordinated by fishery manager Jon Gibb, who is based in Fort William and has championed a constructive relationship between the farm-raised salmon sector and fisheries and angling groups.
Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott said: “Scotland’s salmon farmers want to play their part finding solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector, and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.
“We are determined, for example, to share our knowledge and experience to support wild fisheries with re-stocking.”
He added that anti-salmon farming activists who wanted to close down the industry with the loss of 12,000 jobs were mistaken if they believed it would somehow help wild salmon.
Brink of extinction
Gibb said: “I have worked on Scotland’s salmon rivers for more years than I care to remember. There have always been good and bad years, but what we are seeing is a species on the brink of extinction in some places - it’s that simple.
“Wild salmon are in deep, deep crisis and the aquaculture sector can play a vital role in stemming the worst of their precipitous decline.
“The Scottish farm-raised salmon sector has reached out with the offer of help to the wild fishing community, and it is my sincere wish that both managers and anglers up and down the west coast rise to the challenge and use this welcome and timely funding to save the future of the king of fish.”
A list of the types of organisations that can apply for a grant, and what can be funded, can be found here.