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Conservation Measures to Control the Killing of Wild Salmon - 2018 Assessment

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 outlined for the first time a system whereby the killing of Atlantic salmon in inland waters is managed on an annual basis by categorising the conservation status of their stocks. 

In general terms the Regulations:

  • prohibited the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters

  • permitted the killing of salmon within inland waters where stocks were above a defined conservation limit i.e. those rivers accorded category 1 or 2 status for the 2016 fishing season
  • required mandatory catch and release of salmon in areas which fell below their defined conservation limit following the assessment of salmon stocks i.e. those rivers accorded category 3 status for the 2016 season

Conservation Status Assessment for the 2018 Season

The Scottish Government has carried out an updated assessment of the conservation status of salmon and is now consulting on proposals for the 2018 fishing season. The detailed results of this assessment, along with commentary and guidance on the process, are now available online.

The Government does not propose to bring forward amendments to the text of the Regulations themselves, and will propose only minor textual amendments to Schedule 1 which defines Conservation Status Areas. 


Proposed gradings for each river or assessment group are set out in [link to summary of gradings]. The Scottish Government proposes that these gradings will be set out in a revised Schedule 2 of the Regulations, which define those inland waters where mandatory catch and release arrangements will apply for 2018. 

The conservation status of each stock is defined by the probability of the stock meeting its conservation limit over a 5-year period. Rather than a simple pass or fail, stocks have been allocated to one of the following three grades, each with its own recommended management actions: 

Probability of Meeting CL
At least 80%
Exploitation is sustainable therefore no additional management action is currently required. This recognises the effectiveness of existing non-statutory local management interventions.
Management action is necessary to reduce exploitation; mandatory catch and release will not be required in the first instance, but this will be reviewed annually.
Less than 60%
Exploitation is unsustainable therefore management actions required to reduce exploitation for 1 year i.e. mandatory catch and release (all methods). 

It is recognised that fisheries may not be the only driver of change in salmon stocks, nor will a reduction in exploitation on its own necessarily lead to Conservation Limits (CLs) being attained quickly. However, it is clear that when stocks are below their conservation limit, reducing exploitation by fisheries will help towards CLs being met in the future.

Carcass tagging for net-caught fish for areas in categories 1 and 2 (including the Tweed District) continues. Further information on the detail of the scheme can be found in the guidance note. We have carried out a review of the operation of the first year of the carcass tagging scheme and are considering next steps. 

Further Work

Further consideration continues to be given to:

  • the use of baits and lures (through an established working group): the Baits and Lures Working Group has now completed its work and the recommendations are online

  • research with coastal and in-river fisheries to improve current understanding of mixed stock fisheries
  • the assessment of sea trout stocks to inform a decision on whether conservation measures may be necessary in the future
  • the predation of salmon in coastal areas

This is in addition to on-going work on potential interactions between wild salmon and aquaculture, and marine renewables, and coastal migratory behaviour of salmon.