Policy actions  2 of 5

Conservation of wild salmon

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 outlined for the first time a system under which 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:

  • prohibit the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters
  • permit the killing of salmon within inland waters where stocks are above a defined conservation limit
  • require mandatory catch and release of salmon in areas which fall below their defined conservation limit following the assessment of salmon stocks

Stocks are re-assessed each year and the Regulations amended accordingly.

Guide to river gradings

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 conservation limit




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: catch and release should be promoted strongly in the first instance. The need for mandatory catch and release 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).

Salmon in coastal waters

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 introduced legislation to protect declining salmon stocks by, amongst other things, prohibiting the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters. Compensation was paid to those active coastal fishermen who have been unable to fish for salmon due to the prohibition, for a 3 year period from 2016 to 2018 inclusive, while further research was undertaken to assess the long term position.  The Scottish Government paid £567,806.43 per annum in these three years.

Following the assessment of the research done, and of the status of salmon stocks for 2019, the Scottish Government has determined that the prohibition on retaining salmon caught in coastal nets should remain in place.  Further compensation has been offered or paid to formerly active coastal netting operations.

Conservation of salmon - assessment and river gradings for the 2020 season

The Scottish Government has undertaken an assessment of the conservation status of salmon in inland waters in Scotland for the 2021 fishing season. See the proposed river gradings for the 2021 season.

Guidance on escaped farmed salmon caught in river

Fisheries Management Scotland have drawn up guidance for anglers on the capture of escaped farmed fish.