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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
'Save our salmon' drive launched
Salmon leaping the Falls of Shin, pic by Allan Crossland, Drumnadrochit
Scotland's rivers are a "stronghold" for salmon
Dwindling wild salmon stocks are to be boosted by a major conservation project launched in Aberdeen.

The 3m scheme aims to restore freshwater habitats and tackle threats to the fish in some of Scotland's key salmon rivers.

Increasing concern has been expressed over the decline in Atlantic salmon.

The LIFE campaign will bring together a range of organisations involved in salmon conservation. Fifty per cent of the money has come from the EC.

The campaign is being organised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and will include the Forestry Commission, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) and private landowners.

It is aimed at rescuing fish numbers in eight of Scotland's 17 main salmon rivers - the Dee, Spey, Tweed, Tay, South Esk, Bladnoch, Oykel and Moriston.

Scotland's rivers are described as a "stronghold" for Atlantic salmon.

This is fantastic news for salmon rivers in Scotland
John Markland
Scottish Natural Heritage

Habitat improvements will include extending surrounding woodland and introducing net control measures.

The project will also work to raise awareness of the importance of salmon conservation among river owners, schools and the public.

SNH said it was "fantastic news for salmon rivers in Scotland".

Chairman John Markland said: "This funding package will be a big help for the project partners to carry out much of the major work needed to restore conditions along the key salmon rivers.

"It is particularly significant as it will involve the partnership of a broad range of organisations involved in salmon conservation and will complement wider actions to conserve this species, as well as improve biodiversity in Scotland."

'Priceless part'

ASFB director Andrew Wallace said: "Although the problems facing the salmon are daunting, there are positive signs that these are manageable and that we can secure the future of what is a priceless part of Scotland's natural heritage and its rural economy."

Moira Baptie, of Forestry Commission Scotland, added: "We are delighted with the announcement of this funding, which will enable us to add value to and extend the work we've been doing to ensure that our forests are good neighbours to Scotland's important salmon rivers."

Salmon anglers
The campaign aims to increase numbers in eight rivers
Allan Wilson, the deputy environment minister, said the funding package highlighted the importance of Scotland's rivers and how their quality contributed to the economy, ecology and quality of life.

"This funding from the European Commission is recognition that Scotland can bring forward imaginative projects which demonstrate long term benefits for the conservation of our Atlantic salmon stocks.

"The LIFE project is particularly significant as it involves the partnership of a wide range of organisations involved in salmon conservation and will complement wider actions to conserve this species and improve biodiversity in Scotland."

Although Scotland has some of the healthiest Atlantic salmon numbers in the world, including 80% of the UK population, the catch had declined to 100,000, by 2000 - a fifth of 1975 levels.

Ministers criticised

Ministers have been criticised by conservation and angling groups for not doing enough to tackle threats from sources like pollution and salmon farming.

A leading fishing industry expert warned last month the future of Scottish wild salmon was in jeopardy.

Chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), Orri Vigfusson, claimed there was still an acute need to protect wild stocks.

He called for a ban on interceptory netting in Scotland which kills salmon destined for lochs and rivers.

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