The Missing Salmon Project is launched at the River Garry, Invergarry.
The Missing Salmon Project is launched at the River Garry, Invergarry.

Bid to raise £1million to solve salmon mystery

A crowdfunding campaign is looking to raise £1million to find out why wild Atlantic salmon are in decline.

An international scale project which aims to track scores of wild Atlantic salmon over the next two years was launched in the Highlands of Scotland today as part of the largest effort in Europe to-date to halt the decline of the species.

Anglers gathered at the River Garry to herald the beginning of the Missing Salmon Project, which hopes to discover why this iconic fish is in such sharp decline, essential if effective measures are to be found to reverse their fortunes.

The organisation behind the project, the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), announced it is aiming to raise £1million via crowdfunding to support the tracking project. The marine survival of the wild salmon population has declined by 70% in just 25 years.

Executive director of the AST, Sarah Bayley Slater, said: ‘Salmon have been around for more than 60million years, but their future looks very bleak indeed. If the decline we’ve seen across the Atlantic and in Scotland continues, the wild Atlantic salmon could be an endangered species in our lifetime.

‘In launching the Missing Salmon Project, we are making our stand now and giving our generation a chance to save the species before it’s too late.’

The Missing Salmon Project will supplement the work the AST is carrying out with international partners in preparing a Suspects Framework, which identifies and aims to quantify the causes for salmon mortality on their journey from river to sea and back again.

Working with partners across the Moray Firth, scientists are to tag scores of fish in order to determine which of these suspects are likely responsible, with The Missing Salmon Project looking to raise £1million to pay for the tags and the acoustic receivers that track the salmon’s journey.

The Missing Salmon Project is launched at the River Garry, Invergarry.

Dr Matthew Newton is the tracking co-ordinator for the AST.  He added: ‘If we’re going to have a meaningful impact on reversing the Atlantic salmon’s decline, we need to tag and track fish on a scale never seen before in Europe.

‘By tagging the fish and tracking their progress from their spawning ground and back again, we’ll be able to pinpoint where fish are being lost – and help identify the causes for their increasingly worrying mortality rates.’

And with global populations of wild Atlantic salmon declining from 8-10million in the 1970s to 3-4million fish today, the project will have an international impact.

Dr Newton continued: ‘Too many times, humanity has acted too late when a species is in decline. We have an opportunity to act now and make a lasting, positive impact so we’d ask everyone with an interest in preserving not only Scotland’s wild identity, but one of the world’s most famous species’ futures, to support this ground-breaking project.’

The Missing Salmon Project will tag juvenile fish, known as smolts, as they begin their journey from their home river towards the sea. Fish are recorded as they pass through strategic points – which will help determine how many fish make it to the ocean and where mortality occurs. The tracking project will start in the Moray Firth where 20% of all salmon that leave the UK originate and the lessons learned will be transferable to other populations of salmon around the UK.

Financial pledges have various rewards, starting from a basic £5 which will see donors receive regular updates and a note of thanks, to £5000 donations, with a day fishing on the Junction Pool, River Tweed or a project visit and overnight stay at Gordon Castle, while £25,000 or more will see them become a member of the Atlantic Salmon Trust President’s Club hosted by Earl Percy.

To find out more about the Missing Salmon Project, and to donate to the cause, click HERE.