Saving our Wild Atlantic Salmon – a call to arms

Saving our Wild Atlantic Salmon – a call to arms
Wild Atlantic salmon smolts

“If four or five percent more smolts were to survive their marine migration than do at present, we could have up to 50% more salmon returning to our rivers”

The wild Atlantic salmon is in trouble in nearly all North Atlantic rivers. Numbers continue to decline from ten million in 1970, to less than three million today. At last the Scottish Government is taking action to reduce the killing of fragile populations of salmon. Legislation is not enough without the full commitment and support of every salmon angler. It is not too late to get involved. That may mean contributing the cost of a day’s fishing, or half a dozen salmon flies, to fund the research and actions needed to give our salmon a fighting chance. We can help salmon to survive, as the species adjusts to changes in climate and ecosystems. The salmon is a resilient species. They have done it before – through at least two ice ages. If we give them space and time, salmon will adapt to new climate regimes. Above all, we must work together. That means groups within the UK, in other countries, across the ocean, with governments, the EU and NASCO. It is time to make the commitment and gather the resources to answer the question: “Why are more than 90% of our salmon dying at sea, when only 40 years ago it was about 65%?”

At the moment we spend most of our resources on maintaining the freshwater environment, where we try to conserve the 5% of survivors that make it back to their home rivers. Isn’t it time to tackle the problem of marine mortality? Just imagine if we were able to improve survival of smolts by only 4% or 5%. Potentially that could double the number of salmon in our rivers.

Here are some AST priorities

  • Salmon farming must be made safe for wild salmon and sea trout. Regulation, licensing and monitoring must improve, followed by some form of closed containment, or biological ‘firewall’ between farmed and wild fish, may be the answer.
  • We must stop killing so many salmon. They are too valuable to treat just as food. Their value to people is far greater than that. Anglers should be the engine of change, not part of the problem.We must look after our rivers to maximise numbers of smolts.
  • We must plan for high temperatures and violent floods, monitor stocks and control exploitation.
  • Coastal netting must urgently be phased out.
  • Drift netting, by-catch and mixed stocks netting must be reduced to a minimum, wherever they are practised.
  • Salmon mortality at sea must be assessed on basis of “where at sea do salmon die?”
  • Please support AST’s campaign to bring back more salmon to our rivers

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