Leap forward for wild salmon study

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Mark Bilsby and Kay Jackson by the Spey

Work to understand what is happening to Scotland’s wild salmon is leaping forward thanks to The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation.

The Foundation, which awards funds to well managed charities which are making a positive difference, awarded the Atlantic Salmon Trust £50,000 towards their Moray Firth tracking programme.

The Moray Firth Tracking Project is currently the largest salmon tracking project ever undertaken in Europe and the first time that a regional approach has been taken to better understand what’s happening to salmon on their journey to sea.

Running over a 3-year period, the innovative project has so far tagged 800 young salmon smolts (since commencing this Spring) as they migrate downstream from the headwaters of seven rivers around the Moray Firth, including the River Spey, which runs through the heart of the Foundation in Fochabers.

Foundation manager Kay Jackson welcomed Mark Bilsby, the Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, to Fochabers for an update on progress, given on the banks of the River Spey.

Mrs Jackson said: “This is one of 7 rivers being monitored as part of this 3-year tagging and tracking project, which is designed to uncover the secrets of the missing salmon. That will hopefully mean steps can be taken to halt the decline of this iconic species.

“Gordon Baxter was an avid angler – particularly on the Spey, which flows 120 yards from the company’s Speyside factories. He would spend long hours fishing and even clinched business deals on the banks of the river. This is a hugely important and valuable piece of work and one which we know Mr Gordon would have supported wholeheartedly.”

The Atlantic Salmon Trust, with support of fifty local and national organisations, aims for this project to track and identify salmon migration routes and patterns in an attempt to evaluate what is happening on their journey and better understand what can be done to effectively manage salmon stocks. By joining forces with local Fishery Boards and Trusts, this information will be collected to analyse what may be impacting these fish and help put the tagging results into context, aiding management decisions to reverse the downwards trend.

Mark Bilsby, Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Salmon Trust said: “The problems that salmon face are manifold and we are deeply concerned that if we don’t understand what is happening to them then there is a real threat that we will lose them for future generations. The exceptionally welcome support by The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation will enable us to really understand what is going on and help support the local community to better manage the salmon and the waters they live in.”