Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland (LIFE 04/NAT/GB/000250)
Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland (LIFE 04/NAT/GB/000250)
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The FORECASTER Team
Key features of the case study
In the following section, background and motives of the restoration project which led to the initiation of the project are introduced
Drivers and pressures
Pressures such as commercial netting, deterioration of water quality, barriers to migration, etc. were inflicted upon the European freshwater ecosystem for many years thus resulting in the decline of the population of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Consequently, the Atlantic salmon specie is now at risk all over Europe even in Scotland where water quality is generally good. Scottish rivers such as the Dee, Tweed, Tay and Spey are actually ranked amongst the most famous salmon fishing rivers in the world. This concern about salmon decline drove the Scottish National Heritage (SNH) to develop a conservation strategy for a sustainable exploitation of salmon stocks. As a result, a LIFE project “Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Scotland” (CASS) was undertaken in 2004, focusing on eight of the key Salmon River Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Scotland (see map below).
The CASS project aimed to conserve the abundance and diversity of salmon in Scotland through a significant improvement of freshwater habitats, the development of management guidelines, and the promotion and demonstration of best practice in the removal of key threats through joint efforts and partnerships.
In order to achieve the conservation goal, the LIFE project divided its strategy in seven key points focusing on different threats inflicted upon the salmon stock.
- Increase the extent of freshwater habitat by bypassing, removing or mitigating 25 man-made obstacles
- Improve the extent and quality of spawning and juvenile habitats through in-stream works
- Prevent erosion of riverbank habitat due to uncontrolled grazing
- Reduce siltation of spawning and juvenile habitats from runoff and eroding banks
- Improve riverbank woodland habitats
- Stimulate natural recolonisation and spawning in newly restored areas
- Purchase netting rights
The following section introduces which measures were prepared, implemented and whether they were successful in reaching their related goals
A large broad of restoration measures were implemented within the frame of the LIFE CASS project. Those measures are summarized below and relate to the specific goals outlined above.
- Aiming to improve the longitudinal continuity, 25 artificial obstacles were removed in rivers Spey, Dee, Moriston, Oykel, Tay and Bladnoch allowing salmon to access to 150 km of previously restricted areas of habitat at a total cost of € 450, 000.
- The project also intended to expand and improve available juvenile habitats. 70 137 m2 of habitat were then re-created in rivers Dee and Bladnoch in addition to boulder mats and channel deflectors to uniform channels, and clearing obstacles from tributaries at a total cost of € 107,000.
- Uncontrolled grazing in the Dee, Bladnoch and South Esk rivers catchment led to erosion of the riverbanks, thus resulting in the siltation of salmon habitats. To counteract this threat, the project undertook the following restoration work: 80 km of riparian fencing and associated watering and gates were established at a total cost of € 470,000; 37 land management agreements, which are valid for a period of 10 years, were concluded on the River Dee covering 39.82 ha and costing € 18,700.
- 500 m of riverbank on the River Bladnoch were stabilized at a total cost of € 11,000 also intending to reduce siltation of spawning and juvenile habitats. Besides, a particular attention was given to the Dee catchment where 60 silt traps were constructed and regular maintenance contracts established. Silt traps are miniature weirs constructed from wood that were placed in drainage ditches to prevent silt from entering salmon spawning habitat. The total cost was € 30,000.
- Commercial afforestation has caused degradation of water quality and riparian habitats such as acidification and over-shading. 123 ha of coniferous plantation were removed and 46.6 km of riparian woodland managed to counteract this pressure along rivers Bladnoch, Dee, Spey and Tay. Besides, coppicing was demonstrated to be one of the most cost-effective measures in increasing numbers of salmon parr. The total cost for forest management was € 164,000.
- Juveniles restocking was carried in newly restored/opened-up areas of rivers Spey and Bladnoch to stimulate natural recolonisation at a global cost of € 155,000.
- Finally, five netting stations were purchased or leased on the River Oykel and one netting station leased on the River Bladnoch at a total cost of € 61,000. Salmon netting in the mouths of rivers remove significant numbers of adult salmon, impacting negatively on spawning and smolt production.
The project implemented most of the measures foreseen as introduced in the following table. The purchase of netting stations only failed on one river due to a higher price than anticipated.
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Due to the complex life cycle of Atlantic salmon, it will take several years before it is possible to assess the real conservation impact of the restoration work undertaken under the LIFE CASS project. However, preliminary results of the monitoring show that salmon are returning to these rivers, one of which, the Coy, has not seen salmon for over 250 years. Besides, monitoring results showed new spawning in area of re-created habitats. Details are available here .
Monitoring before and after implementation of the project
All the components of the ecosystems (biotic, chemistry and hydromorphologic) were assessed both before and after restoration. Baseline surveys were carried before restoration aiming to set specific project goals and select sites to implement measures through evaluating juvenile salmon densities, invertebrates densities, freshwater pearl mussel densities, etc. as well as estimating areas suitable habitats for spawning and juveniles. Besides, the post-restoration monitoring aimed to assess the success of the restoration measures. Monitoring details are available in the After Life conservation plan  and are summarized below:
- Salmon stocks were monitored from fry to adults in the spawning and juvenile habitats as well as around the migration barriers. To assess obstacles removal efficiency, six fish counters were installed, with electro-fishing and smolt traps in areas without fish counters at a total cost of € 350,000.
- The quality of spawning and juvenile habitats was also monitored by habitat mapping and monitoring in areas of forest management and fencing. Besides, sediment audits were planned to be carried out 5 years after fencing has been installed. Photographic records of selected areas with severe erosion were also compiled.
- In the meanwhile, the water quality was monitored especially pH to determine whether the forestry management has reduced the acidity of the water.
Monitoring will continue for many years after the project end aiming to determine the success of project actions. The monitoring will also aim to assist with prioritization of future actions, such as further obstacle removal, areas for in-stream restoration above former fish passage obstacles, areas for fencing and grazing management above the former obstacles, areas for forestry or coppicing actions, or riparian vegetation restoration, and so on.
In the following section, ways of cooperation, interaction and information with partners, stakeholders and wider audience of the project are introduced as well as their related success in reaching their participation objectives.
The CASS project cooperation included a wide range of partners such as statutory agencies, government departments, research institutes, commercial companies and local authorities. Alongside the Scottish Natural Heritage as project leader, the 16 following organizations were partners: The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, Esk District Salmon Fishery Board, Tay District Salmon Fishery Board, Kyle of Sutherland District Salmon Fishery Board, Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, Spey District Salmon Fishery Board, Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, Bladnoch District Salmon Fishery Board, The Tweed Foundation, Galloway Fisheries Trust, Fisheries Research Services Freshwater Laboratory, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Executive, Scottish and Southern Energy plc, The Crown Estate, Moray Council and Transport Scotland.
The cooperation succeeded by gathering eight of the Salmon Fisheries Boards, responsible for 40% of the wild salmon resource in Scotland as well as conservation agencies, hydroelectric companies and the Scottish Executive. The LIFE project led to the building of a strong partnership between organizations, which never worked together before, thus generating long term improvements in the management of salmon rivers. All the knowledge gained by the partners during the LIFE CASS project allow them to make appropriate decisions regarding any future work, and may even be used to produce best-practice guidance which could in the future guide legislation and regulation for land practices adjacent to salmon rivers. Nevertheless, although the cooperation was a key success while carrying this project, it turned out to be not as efficient as expected since there were too many partners.
The CASS project team pointed out that the value of positive conservation management is often poorly recognized by river stakeholders. Therefore, project team liaised with anglers, forestry managers, landowners to undertake specific actions, to carry monitoring, etc. during and after the project. As an example, 36 days of partner time spent on direct liaison with stakeholders were organized. The stakeholders were successfully involved in the project such as landowners who requested to be more involved in the fencing and riparian grazing control scheme.
Besides the implementation of the restoration work, the project also foresaw to raise awareness on the needs of salmon conservation, both to river restoration practitioners and to a wider audience.
First of all, the project intended to produce a range of management demonstration products, which would feed into wider conservation strategies for the species, and provide guidance for their application throughout Scotland and beyond. A Scotland wide Best Practice Guidance for gravel extraction in Salmon Rivers was then developed (available here ) at a cost of € 13,000. Then, the project developed a specific approach aiming to resolve threats to salmon by holding events such as workshops, conferences etc. to raise awareness of local river rules and policies relating to conservation measures. Finally, an education programme targeting a large public was developed using a website, leaflets, newsletters, interpretative panels, etc. at a total cost of € 140,000. (More details are available here ). A particular attention was given to children with the school education programme “Salmon in the classroom” which is still on going. All partners have reported that the Salmon in the Classroom programme has been an effective way to educate the next generation about salmon conservation.
The following section gives an overview of cost and funding of the project
Besides the EU which funded 50 % of the total cost (4 695 816 €), others co-financiers provided essential finance to ensure that the necessary works could be done such as the Scottish Natural Heritage (846 344 €) and some Salmon fisheries boards among the project partners as well as some other co-financiers such as Scottish Executive or Middle Dee Project.
Contact person within the organization
Scottish National Heritage (SNH)
Greg Mudge, SNH principle advisor
Telephone: 0044 1 46 37 25 195
Extra background information
Although the project was completed in 2008, the Scottish salmon conservation is still on-going in order to find out whether the project was a success and to prioritize further actions needed aiming to resolve remaining issues. General information is given below but further details are available in the After Life conservation plan :
- Site appraisals and monitoring
- Closure of netting rights and land management agreements
- Maintenance of restored connectivity of salmon habitat
- Fencing and silt trap maintenance
- Maintenance of fish counters
- Continued management of riparian woodland
- Restocking of improved areas with local hatchery-reared salmon
- Public awareness
- Project website (language : English)
- CASS - Conservation of Atlantic salmon in Scotland LIFE04 NAT/GB/000250 – LIFE Web Summary (language : English)
- CASS - Conservation of Atlantic salmon in Scotland LIFE04 NAT/GB/000250 – Layman’s report (language : English)
- CASS - Conservation of Atlantic salmon in Scotland LIFE04 NAT/GB/000250 – After-LIFE Conservation plan (language: English)
- CASS - Conservation of Atlantic salmon in Scotland LIFE04 NAT/GB/000250 – Final technical report (language: English)
- Trap sediments
- Remove barrier
- Install fish pass/bypass/side channel for upstream migration
- Initiate natural channel dynamics to promote natural regeneration
- Add sediments
- Recreate gravel bar and riffles
- Adjust land use to develop riparian vegetation
- Adjust land use to reduce nutrient, sediment input or shore erosion
- Artificial barriers upstream from the site
- Artificial barriers downstream from the site
- Alteration of riparian vegetation
- Alteration of instream habitat
- Sedimentation and sediment input
- Sand and gravel extraction