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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 23:16 GMT
IVF plan hatched to save salmon
Fears have been voiced over salmon stocks
A pioneering project is utilising in-vitro fertilisation techniques in an effort to save dwindling stocks of wild salmon.

The hatchery - based at a remote centre in the Scottish Highlands - is the first of its kind in the UK.

Those behind the initiative say action is needed to avert the threat of the fish becoming extinct on the west coast of Scotland.

If we don't intervene... there is a very real possibility that we will have no wild salmon on the west coast of Scotland

Bob Kindness
Inverness College
The species is at grave risk because of over-fishing and environmental change.

Thirty years ago some 1,800 tonnes of wild salmon were caught each year in Scotland - but that figure has been reduced to 300 tonnes.

The regeneration project has seen Inverness College, highland landowners and the retailer Marks & Spencer join forces.

The process being used has been described as an IVF programme for fish.

Wild salmon are caught and taken to the hatchery on the banks of Loch Kishorn in Wester Ross, where their eggs are fertilised and hatched on gravel trays - in conditions as similar as possible to the river bed.

Success rate

The young are then nurtured in tanks full of fresh river water.

When they are old enough to fend for themselves, they are tagged and put back into the River Carron to make their way to the sea.

The average wild salmon lays 5,000 eggs, only two of which survive to maturity.

However, the Scottish project is claiming a success rate which is 50 times higher.

Salmon hatchery
The eggs are taken to a hatchery
Bob Kindness, of Inverness College's Seafield Centre, said: "The stocks in the west coast are getting very very low.

"We are running the risk of actually losing stocks completely.

"If we don't intervene at this stage and do something to help there is a very real possibility that we will have no wild salmon on the west coast of Scotland."

Marks & Spencer has banned wild Atlantic salmon from sale - in spite of the consumer demand.

It believes that backing the initiative will be a way of getting the product back on the shelves with a clear conscience.

Irreparable damage'

The project is also seen as a lifeline for the local economy in the area, which is located across the sea from Skye.

Last year the WWF warned that salmon numbers were dwindling across the globe.

In a report, it warned that irreparable damage could be done to stocks if preventative measures were not taken.

The organisation blamed the problem on a combination of overfishing, climate change, industrial pollution, dam building and the effects of commercial fish farming.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw reports
"The project is seen as a lifeline for the local economy"
See also:

01 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Wild salmon face numbers crisis: WWF
11 Jan 01 | Scotland
Green light for salmon bill
28 Dec 00 | Scotland
Beer offered to save salmon
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