Can stocking help salmon?

 

The SGA Fishing Group is grateful to John Swinney MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s new salmon champion, for asking 3 Parliamentary questions on the species’ future, following a meeting with constituents.

 

The questions were answered by Minister Mairi Gougeon during Easter recess. We will put this summary on our social media pages and would encourage members, followers and others to read it and comment on the posts, particularly on the subject of stocking.

 

Context

 

The SGA Fishing group raised the issue of stocking (see YouTube film above- remember to Subscribe to our channel) with the Petitions Committee at Holyrood over 4 years ago, see: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/latest-news/2020/october/holyrood-extends-fishing-groups-salmon-stocking-petition.php

AND

https://external.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/Petitions briefings S5/PB20-1782.pdf

Despite Marine Scotland suggesting to the Committee they were ready to engage with key stakeholders more comprehensively on their position, the SGA Fishing Group was only invited to one online meeting, alongside the River Carron team, who have done great work in best practice stocking under the guidance of Bob Kindness.

 

This is arguably the best long-term science we have on how stocking can be deployed successfully in Scotland, see: https://www.carronconservation.scot/the-dna-report

There is also the work on the River Garry.

A bag of Autumn salmon fry heading to the Carron nursery burns

In the response to John Swinney’s question on what consideration has been given to the role stocking might play in increasing wild salmon populations, Minister Mairi Gougeon wrote:

 

“A Government report on the scientific considerations in stocking policy development for river managers was published last year. 

 

*(The conclusion of this report is worth reading, see)

https://www.gov.scot/publications/science-salmon-stocking-scientific-considerations-stocking-policy-development-river-managers-scottish-marine-freshwater-science-vol-14-no-3/pages/9/

 

The Minister continued: “In summary, the supplementation of wild populations with salmon raised in hatcheries can play a part in securing benefits for wild salmon, but may also cause significant and long-lasting harm, depending on the situation.

 

It is recognised that in specific situations where the threat of extinction can be identified and is imminent and extreme, stocking with hatchery raised salmon may be a vital tool following careful consideration of the inherent risks. 

 

The Wild Salmon Strategy Science and Evidence Board is currently reviewing the evidence of various stocking methods in these situations and will report to the Wild Salmon Strategy Implementation Plan Delivery Group soon.”

 

The make-up of this delivery group can be found, here:

https://www.gov.scot/groups/wild-salmon-strategy-implementation-plan-delivery-group/

John Swinney also asked what consideration had been given to the impacts recent flooding events may have had on salmon populations.

 

The Minister responded: “The Scottish Government has not given specific consideration to the implications of recent flooding on wild salmon populations. High river flows potentially wash out salmon eggs from nests on the riverbed and displace juvenile fish downstream. 

 

However, research suggests that salmon are well adapted to natural flow variability, including floods in natural river systems. Current evidence suggests a periodic trend towards more extreme flows in some Scottish rivers. With climate change scenarios, there is potential for further increases in high flows which may impact on salmon.

 

Heavily modified rivers are likely to be less resilient to potential disturbance. Restoration of natural morphological processes and channel characteristics could improve resilience. The Wild Salmon Strategy covers five priority areas, including ‘improving the condition of rivers and giving salmon free access to cold, clean water.’ The Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) specifically encourages projects to restore wildlife and habitats.

 

Finally, John Swinney asked for a progress report on the Wild Salmon Strategy Implementation plan.

We have already made our views known on this and are urging a significant upsurge in urgency, see here: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/latest-news/2023/2024-03-26-government-salmon-plans-lacks-necessary-urgency-say-ghillies.php

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