Thank you for the recent invitation to the Seminar “ There’s more to the Tay than meets the eye”.
I found the presentations to be informative and exciting, demonstrating the value of the research that is been conducted to better understand our Natural Environment and the prospects for a thriving abundant population of Atlantic Salmon.
I give a brief synopsis of those things that I took from the meeting. If I have missed any key points or got the wrong end of the stick I apologise but hope to learn more in the months and years to come. I have given my own report and interpretation below.
The meeting was introduced by David Bellamy discussing the reality or otherwise of Climate change followed by Dick Shelton (AST) pointing out that that the River Tay has a diverse population of Atlantic salmon. A presentation by Dr David Summers illustrated that the river Tay has a least one thing in common with other Salmon rivers, its uniqueness.
It was pointed out the uniqueness on the Tay exists geologically, environmentally, historically and ecologically not least because vast tracts of the water course are unavailable to salmon. Natural impassable barriers, hydro electric barriers and in many cases unsuitable habitat. Most of the reproduction takes place in the main stem of the river and certain tributaries. It was apparent that consideration has been given to support and improve efficient appropriate hatchery management. There are many interesting projects funded by the Tay foundation and the Tay Gillies association aiming to increase an understanding of the various components of Tay catchment’s.
Projects have measured temperature gradients below hydro outfalls, flows, acid flushes and pollution from metals to gauge environmental impacts. There is a project to deliver a 50 % increase in water flowing down the river Garry in light of the recent Water Framework Directives. It is hoped that this will deliver more water to facilitate natural migration and spawning. A 50 % increased flow could be compensated for by two wind turbines, a message that Scottish Hydro has yet to accept. I could not help thinking that it would be beneficial to weigh the economic/ socioeconomic value of a salmon as part of this vital negotiation. I look forward to the day when the rivers of the Tay are optimally managed to provide abundant runs of salmon to inspire Gillies, anglers and local communities. A thriving economy would then exist around abundant Atlantic salmon in the Tay .I hope that in future years the work and research being done today bears fruit by supporting diversity and abundance in the Tay system.
Dr David Stewart (FRS) gave an interesting presentation regarding run times of salmon at particular measured points in time throughout various seasons. It was demonstrated that salmon from different parts of a river and from different tributaries migrate upstream at different time of the year. It is highly likely that times of runs are genetically programmed via genetic selection to occur at certain times encouraged by hydrological flows, and climatic conditions. It was most interesting to learn about the geno types of salmon and that there are at least three main types, Baltic, Atlantic and North American. It was demonstrated that the hybrids of Scottish and Canadian strains survive but only for one generation. I.e. they cannot interbreed further. When these hybrids breed with Scottish salmon progeny survive but they do not survive when breed with Canadian salmon. There was much discussion about the genetic diversity within salmon families, salmon being generally more genetically diverse than trout. However depending upon the unique geographic, historical conditions for evolution over thousands of years resident trout are genetically similar to one and other. Sea trout were more genetically diverse than resident trout but not as genetically diverse as salmon. Discreet populations of trout were shown to exist in certain lochs as a consequence of their unique evolution and their unique environmental circumstances. This was a fascinating presentation by an informed expert and demonstrates that there is so much to know about nature’s blueprint and the secrets of success within.
Dr Stewart summarised by pointing out that biodiversity is the key to abundance and well managed environments.
A practical presentation was given by Mr Iain McLaren regarding Catch and release as a vital cog in the conservation machinery. There was clear guidance on tackle, playing and landing fish to ensure the very best chances of survival. A modern knotless landing net and a pair of forceps are key tolls required for catch and release.
Professor Todd (University of St Andrews) told us about research that had been conducted at Strathy Point netting station, which catches a diversity of different salmon populations. Vital research indicates that salmon are suffering form an inability to attain what would be considered their pristine weight as evidenced by their condition. Fat content, necessary to sustain fish on their migrations and linked to egg producing capacity have been shown to be diminishing over the years. Importantly there appears to be a correlation with Atlantic and North Sea temperatures where recent warming events have been measured. It is thought that such warming reduces availability of the natural plankton that would sustain salmon’s food sources. There were some worrying trends in this data but none the less some fish appear to be perfectly healthy.
Alan Youngson of FRS presented a Hydroaocustic survey of Loch Rannoch which provides a modern scan of fauna within the water column. Individual fish, areas of dense plankton and thremoclines could be detected and measured. It was thought that such analysis could give invaluable information about salmon in their freshwater loch environment and how they react/ respond to specific situations represented in the acoustic scan. I am certain such scans could be invaluable to further understand the relationship between salmon and their environments.
One of the high lights of the day was the film made by Atlantic Salmon Trust introduced by Dick Shelton and Seymor Munro, which describes the fantastic research that is being conducted at sea and supported by AST and Scottish Fisheries Research. This research should prove vital to understanding the extent to which smolts, presmolts and adult fish are caught as by catch, in blue whiting or mackerel commercial fishing operations.
All in all a really worthwhile opportunity to be informed and updated regarding the great things that are been done by the few dedicated scientists anglers, and policy makers that really demonstrate they care about the future of wild Atlantic Salmon. It was also a great opportunity to get to meet the people that can apply their skills to improve the abundance of Atlantic salmon in the years to come.
Finally I would just like to say thank you and wish you further success in your continued efforts to achieve a greater abundance of wild running, self sustaining salmon populations. I hope that the momentum can be maintained and that there are successes in synergy and partnerships with other key organisations. There are many people and organisations working to improve the environment and the economic/ socioeconomics benefits that can come from enhanced salmon runs. Maybe the tipping point for restoring salmon stocks in the Atlantic Ocean is nearer than we think.
Natural Living Assets
19 Swanston Gardens