Salmon project goes swimmingly in Europe
Action to tackle the decline of Atlantic salmon in a number of Scotland's major salmon rivers has been chosen as one of the five best nature projects in Europe.
The Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland (CASS) project was set up to significantly improve the freshwater habitat of the fish in eight rivers, including the Dee, Tweed, Tay and Spey. This follows concerns about the drop in the numbers of salmon in Scottish rivers in recent years as a result of habitat damage, over-exploitation, water quality and quantity and high mortality during their time at sea.
The project was part-funded by LIFE, a European Commission programme that supports environmental and nature conservation projects throughout Europe.
Over four years more than 200 practical actions were taken on the ground to help reverse the decline. The removal of man-made 25 obstacles in rivers and streams opened up 150km of salmon habitat, allowing salmon to return to parts of river systems that had been inaccessible for many years. Over 70,000 square metres of spawning habitat in streams was restored to allow the salmon to release their eggs. Commercial salmon netting was also halted on one river and another two rivers were restocked with wild fish. Along river banks 76km of fencing was put up to stop erosion by grazing cattle, trees were coppiced to increase the amount of light, conifers removed and native trees planted. To help raise awareness of the damage that can be done to salmon spawning habitat by gravel extraction, a code of practice was produced. And Salmon in the Classroom', an education project set up to help school children learn about salmon, is still running in schools across the country.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) coordinated the remarkable partnership that brought together eight District Salmon Fisheries Boards, responsible for managing the salmon fisheries in each river, with statutory agencies, government departments, research institutes, commercial companies and local authorities.
The Scottish project received the Best of the Best LIFE Nature award at a ceremony held in Brussels on 31 May, along with four others from Sweden, Portugal and Austria. All five were chosen from a list of 73 LIFE projects that were completed in 2009.
Denise Reed from SNH said: "Scotland is a stronghold for the Atlantic salmon in Europe and several of our rivers rank among the most famous for salmon fishing in the world. From both conservation and a fisheries perspective it was vital to work together to do what we could to stop the decline of salmon.
"With 17 partners, our project had more than any other LIFE nature project - it's a great example of everyone pulling together to reach a common goal. We've achieved a lot for salmon conservation in Scotland, but hearing that we were in the top five projects in Europe was the icing on the cake - we are absolutely delighted."
Andrew Wallace, Managing Director of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland, commented: "It is extremely encouraging that the CASS project has received such praise and has been recognised as one of the best LIFE bids in the EU. This project was a classic example of the public and private sectors playing to their strengths, working together to produce a result that not only assisted the conservation of one of Scotland's most important flagship species, but also one that supports a £100m industry employing 2500 people in the rural economy."
Angelo Salsi, the Head of the LIFE Nature Unit said: "The CASS project shows what a dedicated partnership and a well-managed LIFE Nature project can do to reverse the decline in biodiversity. It exceeded its objectives, reopening over 150 km of rivers to the Atlantic salmon. As a result, salmon are now returning to rivers where they have not been seen for as much as 250 years!"