Salmon catches at 60-year low
Monday 8 December 2014
EXPERTS believe that 2014 is on course to be the worst year for salmon fishing for more than six decades.
A dry early summer, floods in August and warmer sea temperatures affecting feeding grounds in the Atlantic are being blamed for the dramatically low number of salmon caught.
Anglers say the season in Norway, North America, Iceland has also been extremely poor.
Official figures will be published in spring, but one leading expert said the total rod catch is set to be well under 50,000 “ a decrease of more than 16,000 on the number caught last year “ which itself was the worst season for a decade.
It is thought that this season will yield fewer salmon than at any time since 1952.
Writing in The Scottish Sporting Gazette, Andrew Graham Stewart, director of the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland), which represents anglers, said: “2014 has been an annus horribilis on Scotland’s salmon rivers. Quite simply, overall the catches...have been the worst on record.
“There is little doubt the season’s rod catch for the country as a whole will be less than 50,000; this compares with 66,387 in 2013 and a five year average of 84,500.”
Some fishery boards, the statutory bodies responsible for preserving stocks, confirmed preliminary estimates were well down.
Roger Knight, director of the Spey Fishery Board, which last year had its lowest rod catch on record of 5,780, said 2014 was even worse, with a catch of 4,553.
He said: “In common with many other Scottish rivers it’s been another particularly challenging season on the Spey. I’ve also heard that anglers returning from the big rivers in Norway have reported similar conditions. The same is the case in North America and some rivers in Iceland.”
Dr David Summers, fisheries director of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, believed the catch on his river would be under 7,000, a decrease from last year’s 10,000.
He said: “In terms of July, there hasn’t been as bad a month since the 1950s. Partly it was to do with it being very warm and dry and there was a bit of a drought.”
He confirmed he would not be surprised if the total Scottish catch this year was between 40,000 to 45,000.
He said: “From what I can gather I lot of rivers have done worse than us."
Angling supports about 2,800 jobs and generating £134 million to the economy.
Salmon begin life in fresh water, head downstream to the sea and, when fully grown, return to the same river to spawn.
But scientists believe this cycle is being affected by changes in the marine environment with fewer fish returning to rivers. They say as sea temperatures increase, the fish must swim further north to feed and fewer find their way back.
More than 80 per cent of salmon are released into the rivers by anglers voluntarily, but from next year rules to conserve stocks will mean all salmon caught between January and April 1 must be returned.
A spokesman for the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards said: "Wild salmon, like any wild animal, suffer population fluctuations brought about by many different influences, some of which we understand and some we do not.
"It is essential that we do all in our power to protect our iconic salmon stocks and ASFB has been amongst the leaders in promoting practical conservation measures."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was important to consider longer-term trends in fishery figures rather than one year in isolation.