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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 completed an updated assessment of the conservation status of salmon and Ministers have now made Regulations to set out the detailed provisions to regulate the retention of salmon for the 2018 fishing season.

The Conservation of Salmon (Amendment) Scotland Regulations 2018 were laid in the Scottish Parliament on 8 February 2018.  Amongst other things, Schedule 2 of the Regulations details those inland waters where there is a prohibition on retaining salmon.  Any salmon caught in those waters must be returned at once to the water from which it came, and with the least possible injury.

The Regulations were made following a period of public consultation and discussions with a number of stakeholders during September to December 2017. A summary of the outcome of those consultations is now available online and a table setting out the detailed gradings on a river by river basis is also available.


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 Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016, which came into force on 31 March 2016, introduced legislation to protect declining salmon stocks, including by prohibiting the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters. Compensation has been paid to those active coastal fishermen who are unable to fish for salmon due to the prohibition, for a 3 year period from 2016 to 2018 inclusive.  The Scottish Government has paid £567,722.43 per annum in these three years.  The list of recipients can be found here.
  • 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.