Scottish wild salmon strategy

Sets out the vision, objectives and priority themes to ensure the protection and recovery of Scottish Atlantic wild salmon populations.

Ministerial Foreword

As Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands I am proud to present this Wild Salmon Strategy.

The Atlantic salmon is one of the most magnificent animals in the rich and vibrant tapestry of nature in Scotland. Its special status as King of Fish is evident in so many aspects of our culture throughout history and in present day Scotland.

However, there is sadly now unequivocal evidence that populations of Atlantic salmon are at crisis point. Although the pattern of decline is repeated across the salmon’s North Atlantic range, likely caused, at least in part, by the effect of climate change on survival during its marine phase, there remains much that we can do in our rivers and coastal waters to build resilience and transform the fortunes of this iconic fish for the better.

The turnaround of the River Clyde where salmon were once extinct serves as an example that transformational changes are possible. Hard work and investment by multiple partners to improve water quality and restore connectivity in this heavily industrialised river means that salmon have now made a welcome return to the Clyde and its tributaries.

This and many other hugely valuable initiatives already underway across Scotland will take us closer to achieving the vision set out in this Strategy. Nevertheless, it is apparent that while, for example, difficult steps have been taken in recent years to limit the killing of salmon by anglers and coastal netting operations, the pace and scale of action across the many other pressures affecting salmon must be stepped up.

We must now reinvigorate our collective efforts to ensure a positive future for wild salmon. This will require the Scottish Government, Agencies, the charity and private sectors to work together and coordinate action to prioritise the protection and recovery of Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon populations.

While there are legal requirements that drive our commitment to the protection of wild salmon, we are also clear that the revival of salmon populations and the habitats they depend on will provide multiple benefits to society and will play a significant role in our ambitions for the rural economy.

In parallel with the actions we take here in Scotland, we are committed to support and push forward collective action in the international arena, so that many of the young salmon that depart our rivers survive the challenges they face on the high seas to return to their home river to spawn the next generation.

Importantly, this strategy does not exist in isolation but forms part of the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment – as expressed in Scotland’s Environment Strategy - to lead by example and play our full part in tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, during what the UN has declared the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-30.

I wish to thank the Advisory Group that has shaped the strategy and look forward to engaging stakeholders in the development of an Implementation Plan to drive collective action across government, business, and civil society. I do not underestimate the task ahead but through the strength of our partnerships and shared efforts I am confident that we can succeed in achieving our vision for Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon.

Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands



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