‘Save our Smolts’ salmon project begins

THE Spey Fishery Board has launched its “Save our Smolts” project to help baby salmon make it to the sea.

During this year’s trial, smolts will be collected in traps upstream from Loch Insh, which is a “pinch point” on the River Spey through which young salmon struggle to swim.

The fish will then be tagged electronically, with half released upstream from the loch and the other half downstream of the loch.

By monitoring the survival rates of the two groups, the project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of trapping and relocating smolts on the River Spey.

Roger Knight, the Spey Fishery Board’s director, said: “We are thrilled to be launching this important project, which has the potential to make a real difference to the survival of young salmon in the Spey.

“We believe that by working together, we can protect this vital part of our natural heritage and ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy these magnificent fish.”

Sandy Scott, chairman of the Spey Fishery Board, added: “Anglers from across the world visit the River Spey each year to fish for salmon, providing the backbone of our local economy.

“So we must do all we can to help our Atlantic salmon – an iconic species sadly now in crisis.

“This work is very demanding on the limited resources of the board’s small team, but it is vital if we are to achieve our mission of getting as many salmon smolts as possible out to sea.

“We look forward to hearing about the results in due course.”

Atlantic salmon numbers have fallen by 75% over the past 20 years, the board said.

Mark Bilsby, chief executive of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, said: “This project is a great example of our sector working together and building on joint successes, ensuring that the important work from the Moray Firth Tracking Project stimulates further action to protect wild fish.

“That great, collaborative project is giving river boards and managers the confidence to take the next informed steps on their own catchments.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the River Spey, supporting them wherever we can to help them achieve their goals.”

Read more fishing stories on Scottish Field’s field sports pages.

Plus, don’t miss Michael Wigan’s fishing column in the May issue of Scottish Field magazine.