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Eden - Kirkby Stephen

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The Eden rises in Black Fell Moss, Mallerstang, on the high ground between High Seat, Yorkshire Dales and Hugh Seat. Here it forms the boundary between the counties of Cumbria and North Yorkshire. Two other great rivers arise in the same peat bogs here, within a kilometre of each other: the River Swale and River Ure. It starts life as Red Gill Beck, then becomes Hell Gill Beck, before turning north and joining with Ais Gill Beck to become the River Eden. (Hell Gill Force, just before it meets Ais Gill Beck, is the highest waterfall along its journey to the sea). The steep-sided dale of Mallerstang[1] later opens out to become the Vale of Eden. The river flows through Kirkby Stephen and Appleby-in-Westmorland, and receives the water of many becks flowing off the Pennines to the east, and longer rivers from the Lakes off to the west, including the River Lyvennet, River Leith and River Eamont, which arrives via Ullswater and Penrith.

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Website Design Cumbria

Website Design Cumbria

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Based in Cumbria designing websites and providing internet marketing services for small businesses in Cumbria. Our aim is to provide a cost effective service to businesses.

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Brownber Hall Country House

Brownber Hall Country House

Brownber Hall, Newbiggin-on-Lune, Kirkby Stephen, CA174NX

Brownber Hall is a magnificent country house offering bed and breakfast. The house is set amid beautiful rolling countryside and enjoying panoramic views across open farmland to the Howgill fells. 10 en-suite bedrooms, log fire, traditional Cumbrian breakfast. Dogs welcome by arrangement.

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King's Head

King's Head

King's Head, Ravenstonedale, Kirkby Stephen, CA17 4NH

The King's Head is everything a good pub should be: warm, friendly and welcoming to anglers with good food, real ales and 6 new en-suite bedrooms.

Website | Email | 015396 23050

Gorsebank - Anglers Cabins & Bothies Dalbeattie

Gorsebank - Anglers Cabins & Bothies Dalbeattie

Greenhill Farm Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire, DG5 4QT

Located on a small estate in stunning Dumfries & Galloway. Only 1.5 miles from river URR (trout, salmon, sea trout) and short drive from CREE & NITH. Open all year with lots to do for non angling guests. Onsite trout and coarse lakes.

Website | Email | 01556 611634

Local Reports

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Usan Coastal Nets

added: 2nd Mar 2014

Mixed Stocks Fisheries. The Lairds of our Coast and wild salmon. Breath-taking arrogance, unsustainable, out-of-date, and cause for international censure.

After years of abuse of the netting...

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slap periods, Usan Fisheries have at last been brought to account. To anyone concerned about the state of salmon and sea trout stocks on the east coast of Scotland, they will feel that this legal action is long overdue.

Sailing close to the wind. Did Usan jibe?

It is widely recognised by everyone involved in salmon fishery management that the activities of the Usan Salmon Fishery have at times been somewhat ‘close to the wind’ in terms of the law. The weekly slap times, when nets are by law supposed to be rendered inactive by removing the leaders to the bag nets, are in place to support the conservation of salmon, grilse and sea trout. They are most certainly not regulations for a pick and choose approach by Usan Fisheries, arguably the most destructive mixed stocks fishery remaining in the UK.

The owners of the Usan Salmon Fisheries company now face 12 charges relating to alleged incidents in Angus and Fife during August and September 2013. The locations cited are at Boddin, Dysart, Ethie Haven and Scurdie Ness. If it transpires that their nets were operating in the month of September it will confirm the extraordinary arrogance – some might say the behaviour of people who seem to regard the Scottish coast as their fiefdom, and all salmon as their property – of a fishery which surely is now an anachronism, putting Scotland’s inept management of its wild salmon into international pariah status. The fact is that September is outwith the netting season. Transgression of statutory season closures is surely tantamount to poaching?

Of the twelve charges, five are related to netting salmon every weeekend in August from 1800 on Fridays to 0600 on Mondays, all outwith the statutory weekly close time for net fisheries.

All this may seem petty and somewhat arcane to anyone unfamiliar with the operations of Usan Salmon Fisheries. This company, which has long received political and moral support from government and funding from the EU, takes salmon in unknown numbers from most, if not all, east coast salmon rivers. No-one knows which populations of fish are being exploited, some of which may be in a fragile condition (as is the case with the government’s own assessment of South Esk spring salmon). The activities of Usan Salmon Fisheries make it impossible for fishery managers on all affected rivers to assess the condition of their salmon stocks.

The existence of that mixed stocks net fishery is simply bad fishery management, and it is time to take full control of their exploitation. If it is found that they have been flouting the law, notwithstanding health and safety considerations, it will become absolutely clear that they cannot be trusted to manage their operations within the law. Appropriate measures to curb their activities, on conservation grounds alone, must surely follow?

And I haven’t even touched on the immense damage being done by one small family business to the rural economy and communities from Fife to Inverness!


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AST/IBIS Stocking Conference

added: 1st Dec 2013

The role of the AST blog is to give comments on or flavour to AST's activities. I hope our readers will appreciate that its purpose is only to give brief descriptive overview of the stocking conference,...

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which ended last Thursday, and that full details will emerge later.

The proceedings of the conference will of course be posted on the AST website in due course. In the meantime the job of this blog is to give our readers a flavour of what took place. I find it instructive that the event was oversubscribed. The fact that so many people wanted to attend the conference says something about how we should engage with people in the world of salmon management. It suggests, for example, that people with an interest in salmon who are very often not scientists, need to receive information in clear, plain English, and not in the sometimes obscure language of the scientist. Perhaps, more importantly, it suggests that by declaring that we are ready to listen to all points of view, to avoid being prescriptive or proscriptive, we can open up a good natured debate, however different views may be.

I think it is also important that there is clarity in distinguishing between the role of the scientist, whose job is to advise on the basis of available facts, and the manager, whose task is to make decisions taking into account all the aspects and needs of the fishery. The two roles are separate and distinct.

[b]IBIS - Integrated Aquatic Resources Management Between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland[b/] - an EU initiative, provided the funding for this event and it was because IBIS covered all the conference costs that numbers were limited. While it was certainly a pity that we didn't bring in everyone who wanted to attend we did have an exceptionally knowledgeableand broadly based audience. In terms of who the conference attracted, it really could not have been better; 150 practitioners, anglers, scientists and managers gathered together to debate this contentious subject. Our congratulations and thanks go to our IBIS partners for excellent organisation and a successful conference.

[b]Stocking as an instrument of salmon fishery management[b/] has for many years been a matter of contention between those who advocate its use as an immediate reaction to counter perceived reduction in numbers of fish, to those who see its use as an action of last resort. The debate has become polarised. One of the objectives of the conference was to remove that polarity in views by dealing with the issue objectively.

The key questions that emerged from the debate were; [b]"What is the purpose of your stocking project? What outcomes do you want/expect, and how are you going to know whether you have achieved them?[b/]

Those questions were dealt with effectively over the course of the two days. While I have no doubt that there are some people who arrived at the conference as advocates of stocking as the first 'go-to' instrument of management, it is fair to claim that the debate gave recognition to all views on the basis that in each case the desired outcome of the stocking action was clearly stated. The antithesis was inferred - that without clarity of desired outcome there can be no place for stocking as a rational instrument of management.

[b]An excellent example is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation)[b/] catchment where natural biodiversity is the stated outcome. The conference agreed that in all SAC salmon rivers there should be a presumption against stocking. In other words, in those rivers, because the objective is natural biodiversity, there should be no human intervention that in any way interferes with the natural process of smolt recruitment.

On the other hand, where the manager's desired outcome is a profitable recreational fishery, and in circumstances where the capacity of that fishery to recruit sufficient naturally recruited smolts is impaired, it may be necessary to introduce stocking as a means of boosting numbers. Examples such as the Ranga in Iceland and the Lochy in Scotland were cited as rivers where for specific reasons - poor spawning and juvenile habitat on the Ranga and impacts of salmon farming on the Lochy - it is expedient and effective to boost salmon numbers artificially, despite the costs of so doing.

The conference achieved a consensus that, provided the manager is clear about why he is taking action and what outcome he wants, stocking does have a place in a toolkit of intervention instruments available to him. Underpinning and informing the moment of decision is the absolute necessity of the fishery manager to understand his stock, in terms of structure, quality (of the individual fish) and numbers. The example of the Moy catchment in Ireland, that supports populations of salmon with different run timings and destinations within the catchment, made the point that stock structures can be complex and require sensitive treatment. The underpinning aspect of stock definition is of course genetics, and that there is some way to go before genetic differentiation between populations within a river's stock will be extensively available.

If there was a simple message for the fishery manager, dealing with a complex issue, it was "If you think you have a problem with your river's salmon stock, pause and think hard before you take action". The 'thinking' requires knowledge of the stock, an understanding of the perceived problem, evaluation of available options and a clear statement of desired outcomes. That considered approach should encourage managers to make the right decision.

I feel the conference did much to clear the air. It certainly seemed to erode a few prejudices! Speaking for myself, it also cleared my head on a few issues!

Tony Andrews

AST 1 December 2013

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Mixed stocks netting

added: 19th Oct 2013

Scottish east coast Salmon and the Usan Mixed Stocks Fishery

A mixed stocks fishery confirmed

Marine Scotland’s South Esk Tracking Project is designed to find out where the River’s...

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early running salmon go within the South Esk catchment to breed. Following identification of spawning and juvenile habitats locations it is hoped that an assessment of the physical condition of the river in those places will lead to targeted improvements. To some extent at the end of year 2 (of 3) we can say that objective is being met, although sample numbers are very low.

It is no surprise to learn from the MS tracking project that Usan nets are killing spring salmon from many, if not all east coast rivers. With proof that the Spey is also impacted by the activities of the Montrose-based nets it is now established that the Rivers Spey, Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay are affected. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Earn, Deveron, Ythan, Uigie and Findhorn may also be included in the list, not to mention the smaller rivers – The Rivers in Between - such as rivers Bervie, Cowie, Lunan, Eden, about which I wrote recently.

All Scotland’s east coast rivers are affected.

In other words, all the main North East salmon rivers – the jewels in the crown of Scottish wild spring salmon – are being impacted by the activities of one small operation near Montrose. That is a high price to pay for the part-time jobs of a small family business. It is not fanciful to claim that Usan Fisheries Ltd is holding the survival our national reserve of these iconic spring fish to ransom, apparently supported by our government. Why?

Disagreement on the ‘natural capital’ value of wild salmon.

Conflict between conservation & mixed stocks exploitation.

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the effects of exploitation of both Atlantic salmon and sea trout by the coastal nets sited South of Montrose. Quite a lot of what has been said has been speculative and sometimes exaggerated, but no-one can deny that feelings on the subject have been running high on both sides of the debate. An early casualty of emotional arguments is truth, and the Usan nets issue is no exception.

It is unfortunate that during their fishing season the nets have first opportunity to kill incoming salmon and sea trout migrations. Imagine a situation where nets and rods had equal and simultaneous access to the fish. In that scenario there’s not much doubt that agreement would have been reached long ago on how to share the ‘harvest’. Sadly it doesn’t work like that.

Every returning adult salmon is a survivor

After their long migration salmon arrive off the Scottish east coast. Swimming close to the shore, many become enmeshed in carefully sited coastal nets. These fish, so close to their destination, are survivors of about 95% marine mortality between their departure as smolts from fresh water to their return as adult fish. All netted fish are of course killed as they are brought into the boat. Those that avoid the nets might then enter their river of choice. Alternatively they might move on up or down the coast; or, especially if river levels are low and there is only a weak chemical signal inviting them into fresh water, they may just hang around close to estuaries, remaining vulnerable repeatedly to being netted.

Before any fish can enter the river, they therefore have to run the gauntlet at least once as they either caught in the nets, or bypass them. All this happens before a single angler has seen, let alone caught, even one fish.

Perceptions among fishery managers and anglers are that the high-value visiting angler only gets to fish for what the nets have failed to catch. It is the resulting sense of unfairness – crumbs from the laird’s table as it were - among anglers that fuels the argument between netting and fishery management. Isn’t it an irony that those who defend the rights of the netsmen often do so on the grounds of wealth and class? That over-used argument tells us that salmon anglers are wealthy leisure seekers – while the owners of netting interests feast sumptuously off profits from killing survivors of returning migrations of salmon.

The modern angler is more environmentally sensitive than their predecessors were even ten years ago. During the main part of the season they are left to fish for what is left behind by the nets. Moreover, the number of fish killed has decreased through catch & release (70%+). Meanwhile there has been no move towards quotas or increasing the nets slap times. On the contrary, weekend slap times are routinely ignored, more coastal netting stations are being reopened, more salmon killed and financial incentives and support is offered by the Scottish Government and European Commission to the netsmen.

Who are the beneficiaries?

Local communities?

The local economy?

Who benefits from the nets?

Who benefits from the visiting angler?

Where is the sense in all this?

What is significant in biodiversity terms about ‘mixed stocks’ exploitation?

Salmon, and perhaps to a lesser extent sea trout, tend to be ‘loyal’ to their rivers of birth. I say “tend” only because there are many examples of salmon straying. How else could salmon in the River Mersey have re-colonised a river that was to all intents and purposes dead as a result of industrial pollution? There are also many examples of ‘hatchery stocking’ using ova or fry from other rivers, or of fish ‘going up the wrong river’, or changing their minds having entered one river only to go to another one to spawn.

The 'core stock' of a river, with its unique DNA signature(s) is pretty robust, having withstood challenges from straying salmon with different genetic make-ups for millennia. Unless the core stock is swamped, as has happened in rivers where farmed salmon in unprecedented numbers have interbred with the wild fish stock, the genetic integrity of the salmon ‘belonging’ to a river is likely to survive. Intermittent hatchery stocking or salmon straying naturally from other rivers are unlikely to damage the core stock. On the contrary, they may even strengthen it, in much the same way as antibodies strengthen resistance to disease. Of course there are other examples, especially in USA and Canada, where huge dams have eradicated the stock, and the genetic signature of that river is gone forever. That is a tragedy because those genetics have evolved over centuries in response to the physical, geological, chemical and biological characteristics of the river. We must therefore make every effort to preserve the signature DNA of all our rivers where irreparable damage hasn’t already been done.

We should recognise the value of natural biodiversity as the fruit of evolution in the context of every ecosystem. Therefore we shouldn’t be misled into thinking that the tendency of wild Atlantic salmon to stray to other rivers conflicts with the genetic predisposition of nearly every fish of a particular river to return to its home waters to breed. Nothing is so jet black or marble white in the natural world. That genetic preference is part of the DNA makeup of wild Atlantic salmon. In situations, such as the South Esk, where populations of fish within the overall stock of the river can we think be distinguished from each other by their genetic differences, together they define the structure of the river’s stock that has evolved since the last ice age. Scientists and managers are continuing to fill in the detail of genetic attribution maps.

As things stand there is a varied picture of genetic description of stocks and their populations in the NE Atlantic bioregion, ranging from tributary-specific attributions to broad-brush regional ones. Over time, like the detail of a landscape painting being added after the structure of the painting’s composition, the detail will describe with some accuracy which genetic groups of fish belong to which rivers. It is work in progress.

The impossibility of effective fishery management.

Growing awareness of the importance of gene types should persuade us to take special care of rivers where we suspect that some populations, or even the whole stock, may be in a fragile condition. Fishery managers try to use the precautionary principle as a safety net to justify making timely interventions to protect threatened groups of fish. Unfortunately it is not possible to protect any population in any Scottish east coast river while mixed stocks coastal netting as practised by Usan Fisheries continues. The existence of an interceptive fishery that kills salmon indiscriminately from six identified rivers, and almost certainly many others, prevents effective management taking place in any of them.

What does the term “sustainable” mean in this context? It is a situation apparently summarised by the politically motivated thought, “the rod fishery will have to be managed with the Usan fishery continuing its lethal exploitation of unknown stocks”. In fact it is impossible for fishery managers to take effective decisions to protect stocks while that mixed stocks fishery exists. You would have thought that, while genetic mapping continues to fill in the detail of populations attributable to rivers, at least a pause would be called on killing fish from stocks where there is a degree of concern that some populations may be fragile (or in technical parlance, ‘below conservation levels’). That pause should include both rods and nets i.e. no killing at all. If Catch and Release is shown to be politically unacceptable in terms of perceived equity and fairness, then both fisheries - rods and nets - should be closed. After all, the priority is to conserve the fish, not the people that exploit them!


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Rivers In Between

added: 22nd Sep 2013

Scottish Rivers regularly in the news such as the Tay, Dee and North and South Esks, of which all except the North Esk are EU designated Special Areas of Conservation(SACs), may draw attention away...

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from little east-flowing rivers such as the Lunan, Cowie and Bervie, which have unique catchments and their own estuaries into the North Sea. It is easy to forget them. This blog is about the River Bervie and the problem it currently has with a naturally recurring impassable barrier to salmon and sea trout as it enters the North Sea. To see the photos referred to in this report please visit the bulletin blog for 22/9/2013 at

You may wonder what the problems of the River Bervie have to do with FCW and the South Esk. If you are having such a thought, do read on!

The River Bervie.

The Bervie rises in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains and flows for about 20 miles through upland farms and forestry before entering the agricultural land of the Mearns and flowing into the North Sea at Inverbervie. While the catchment is quite small, at about 85 square miles, the river is prone to big flood events from the high ground of the Eastern Grampians, as are neighbouring rivers such as the North Esk, the Cowie and (on the other side of the catchment watershed) the River Feugh, a tributary of the Aberdeenshire Dee.

The Bervie estuary is located between Stonehaven and Montrose, and its neighbouring major rivers are the North Esk to the south and the Aberdeenshire Dee to the north. The Bervie has populations of Atlantic salmon, sea trout and indigenous brown trout. The river is fished regularly by local angling clubs. Recently the Esks Rivers and Fisheries Trust, which is responsible for habitat management of the Bervie, mounted a successful programme to eradicate a serious invasion of Japanese knotweed from the banks of the middle river.

Photo: General view of the River Bervie estuary ,showing the shingle bar that denies access of salmon and sea trout to the river.

Yesterday, prompted by an e-mail from a concerned angler, I visited the estuary of the River Bervie in Inverbervie. The photos in this bulletin show all too clearly the problems of this little Mearns river as it enters the sea.

I have fished the Bervie for wild trout for many years, so I can vouch for the excellent habitat the river provides for migratory and indigenous wild salmonids at all stages of their freshwater growth. It is a gem of a small river!

The photo above shows in detail the problem faced by migrating salmon, grilse and sea trout attempting to access the river. Strong winds and tides have swept huge quantities of heavy shingle (cobbles with an average diameter of 2 to 3") into an extended 'mound' that completely blocks access. The photo was taken at high tide.

I remember seeing salmon redds in the cobble sections of the middle river pools during the winter months. There have been many occasions in summer months when I have caught more than a dozen small wild trout on a dry fly in its pools and riffles. The biggest wild trout I have ever caught in the river weighed less than one pound! The Bervie is a fertile and productive small river with a deceptively steep catchment gradient, and consequent high energy flood events. It is quite a dynamic river.

The photo above shows the lagoon caused by the shingle barrier at high tide preventing the river reaching the sea by percolating through the cobbles of the beach. The water is backed up to create this area of fresh water.

So salmon do get into the river, and the problems of natural estuary obstructions are nothing new. No doubt generations of Bervie salmon have adjusted their run timings to enable them to make use of good levels of freshwater and high tides in the winter, spring and autumn months. In previous years(I don't know why it has not been done this year) bulldozers have moved the shingle aside to allow fish access.

This photo shows how the banked-up shingle of rounded cobbles and large diameter gravel causes a barrier to fish migration. The picture was taken at high tide when river water is unable to reach the sea by percolating through the shingle.

I believe that the issue is not the shingle barrier itself (although it would of course be better if it were routinely removed) but that mixed stocks coastal netting in the districts of the North and South Esks is probably causing potentially serious damage to Bervie salmon and sea trout stocks. It is the combination of that unknown level of exploitation with the effect of the estuarine barrier that should be the cause of concern.

Photo of the sea side of the shingle barrier with an angler spinning at the very point where the river should enter the sea. While I was there I saw a number of grilse and sea trout leaping clear of the water a few feet away from the steep shingle bank.

The photo above is the view upstream from the footbridge at the sea pool of the River Bervie. The river's water has been backed up by the high tide, which prevents the fresh water reaching the sea by seeping through the shingle barrier.

The Marine Scotland South Esk Tracking Project confirmed in 2012 that the coastal nets at Usan, south of Montrose, are killing early running multi sea-winter salmon from a range of rivers, including the Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay.

The small east coast rivers, of which the Bervie is one, tend to have summer and autumn runs of salmon and grilse, rather than early running spring salmon. Because the MSS S Esk project focuses on tagging spring salmon (up to 31st May) it is therefore unlikely that any salmon or grilse bound for the Bervie were tagged. However, given the spread of exploitation by the Usan fishery, it is very likely that Bervie fish are killed by the nets later in the season. In a dry year, as 2013 has been, fish arriving off the coast are reluctant or unable to enter rivers affected by low levels of flow and high water temperatures. Fish that hang around in the sea, close to river estuaries, waiting for a summer freshet are exceptionally vulnerable to predation, disease, netting and natural stresses (such as the large amount of energy required for osmo-regulation).

The situation for the Bervie is exacerbated by the naturally occurring blockage of the estuary by beach shingle. The level of risk for the Bervie's salmon stock, caused by the inability of fish to enter the river, at the same time as natural attrition in a dry year and unknown impacts from lethal exploitation by the Usan nets, may threaten the viability of the river to produce sufficient ova to ensure natural sustainability. That surely is a serious issue that needs to be addressed soon? It is not only the South Esk that suffers unknown levels of depredation of its salmon populations. Indeed, some people might with justification argue that it is "the rivers in between" that are most threatened by continuation of mixed stocks netting.

TA 22 September 2013

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added: 5th Sep 2013

Atlantic Salmon Trust

September 2013 Newsletter

A Busy Autumn Ahead

AST’s interest in promoting alternative technologies for salmon farming is a strong theme of our work over the...

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next four months. The long and bitter argument over the validity of international research, published by the Royal Society in 2012 on the subject of farm amplified sea lice impacts on wild Atlantic salmon, has now ended. Statements from authors of the RSE paper remove the last vestiges of doubt by pointing out that the data are facts and, while others may hold different opinions, there is no room for argument as far as the integrity of conclusions of the research is concerned. AST can therefore move forward with its work to find effective methods of establishing a biological firewall between the wild fish and the salmon aquaculture generated parasite, Lepeoptheirus salmonis.

Modern Approaches to Salmon Farming

AST’s Research Director, Ken Whelan, is currently attending a summit meeting in West Virginia organised by the Freshwater Institute and Atlantic Salmon Federation. The purpose of the meeting is to update participants on technologies and business models for land-based salmon grow-out using freshwater recirculation systems (RAS). With at least one salmon farming company operating a fully commercial model in Canada, and other companies in Europe and elsewhere close to establishing commercial production units, it appears that there is literally a ‘sea change’ going on in the salmon aquaculture world. There is inevitability in the development of these new methods in the context of global agreements to protect biodiversity and a desire by forward-thinking leaders in the industry to modernise practices and protect the environment and wildlife. It will be interesting to have Ken’s update on his return from USA, which will be reported in our next Newsletter.

Stocking, stock Assessment and Restoration.

A planning meeting with the Institute of Fishery Management (IFM) this month will take forward our joint commitment to developing a toolkit for managers on stock assessment. The outcome will be a manual guide for managers and others with an interest in monitoring stocks of wild salmon and sea trout.

This initiative ties in closely with the EU funded (IBIS) and AST conference (November 26 in Glasgow) on stocking, which has already raised much interest with scientists and groups involved in management of freshwater catchments.

Also in September, Ivor Llewelyn, AST’s director in England and Wales, will attend a workshop on “What Works and What Doesn’t” in St Andrews New Brunswick, Canada. The purpose of this international meeting is to pool knowledge and experience on restoration strategies for rivers with depleted habitats and stocks of wild Atlantic salmon. AST’s own experience in this subject area is of course extensive and well presented in the 2009 Restoration Guidance For West Coast Salmon and Sea Trout Fisheries.

AST at October meeting of EU Pelagic RAC

Ken Whelan and Tony Andrews will be in The Hague in October to discuss with pelagic fishermen our concerns about possible accidental damage to outgoing migrations of salmon smolts. We have been given a warm welcome by the group who share our interest in measuring and understanding changes in the pelagic environment of the Atlantic Ocean. Our objective is to obtain data on pelagic catches to establish if there is a real threat and, if we find that a threat does exist in the form of damage to salmon stocks from accidental by-catch, to discuss methods of mitigation. It is early days in the discussion but we are much reassured by the willingness of European commercial fishermen to engage with us. Our next Newsletter will report on our discussion.

As AST develops its approaches to understanding the lives of salmon at sea, Ken Whelan will also attend the Smart Ocean Forum in Belfast which deals with the main issues affecting changes in the marine environment.

Trans Atlantic Partnership

AST’s relationship with the Atlantic Salmon Federation is important in the context of our post-SALSEA interest in extending knowledge of marine habitats, impacts of climate change and indications of variable abundance of other pelagic species. Following Ken Whelan’s and Ivor Llewelyn’s attendance at international events in West Virginia and New Brunswick, Tony Andrews will be at ASF’s AGM in New York in November to catch up with aspects of the Federation’s work, especially tracking salmon at sea and their efforts to persuade governments to insist on better practices in the salmon aquaculture industry. There will be a short account of the meetings in our next Newsletter.

Spreading the word and fund-raising

Also in November Ken Whelan will give a presentation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on the lives of salmon at sea after which the Stocking conference takes place in Glasgow. Tony Andrews will be in Dumfriesshire to talk to ghillies and fishery managers and on 20 November there will bea gala dinner at Fishmongers’ Hall in London to raise funds for AST’s ambitious five-year programme of research and education projects.

Catchments, Small Streams, Sea Trout & Communities

Last year’s Small Streams Workshop in Ireland was an outcome of the Sea Trout Symposium in Bangor three years ago. The role of (very) small streams in a river’s catchment was highlighted at the workshop, especially their importance as reservoirs of biodiversity for the whole catchment and the spawning facilities they provide for trout. The issue of anadromy – why do some trout choose to go to sea and others don’t? – is intricately tied up with the quality of habitats and availability of food. That question about anadromy is another challenge arising from the Bangor Symposium. Simply put, if we are going to manage sea trout stocks effectively, we have to understand the life strategies of Salmo trutta L much better than we do at present.

Strangford Lough in October.

Ken Whelan and Tony Andrews will be in Ireland in October talking with trusts and active volunteer groups about ways of mobilising local volunteers as Citizen Scientists to help focus management actions on streams that in the past may have been neglected. Of course, any group of volunteers will require some guidance from biologists and experienced managers. There are, however, some obvious ‘hits’ that can be achieved by volunteer groups, such as dealing with invasive plants (e.g. Himalayan balsam). Ken and Tony will be discussing with Irish counterparts how such groups can best be used and whether a manual for volunteer groups would be useful to fishery managers and land owners.

An Essential Resource for Researchers, Scientists, Teachers & the Public

The AST website is fast developing into a major resource for anyone needing information on the whole lives of wild salmon and sea trout. While AST is not a lobbying organisation, as for example our partners, the Angling Trust or Salmon & Trout Association are, we do have a remit to raise public awareness on issues connected with the survival of our two iconic species of wild salmonids. Our website is our ‘shop window’ and archive rolled into one.

We are currently raising money to put all AST journals, Progress Reports and occasional papers into a library which will be linked to the Freshwater Biological Association’s (FBA) website managed from their headquarters in Windermere.

We are also developing the education section of the website into a teachers’ and learners’ resource. There is already a simple mobile graphic of the life of the Atlantic salmon. The existing Learning Zone will be developed further to make it more interactive and interesting to the young learner, but in fact to learners of all ages. We will keep you updated on progress.

Lost at Sea – a film

While on the subject of raising public awareness, AST is currently involved in the production of a new film on Atlantic salmon which addresses the issue of poor marine survival. Do visit the website to learn more about this innovative film.

If you want to get involved in the AST’s work you can do so by becoming an AST Friend. Please call Marjorie on 01738 472 032 to find out more.

Tony Andrews

September 2013

Atlantic Salmon Trust's profile picture

Economies of truth & salmon farming

added: 25th Aug 2013

Who do you trust? World class science? Callender McDowell, the organ grinder for salmon farming, or the SSPO, the body that represents the Norwegian / Czeck / Bulgarian salmon...

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farming industry that uses Scotland's west coast waters to conduct its business, and kills its wild salmon and sea trout?

I have published this post as a news item as well as a blog on the AST website on the grounds that the three bits of news from last week (see below) are highly relevant to AST's objectives, and as such deserve comment.

Charles Clover's leader in today's Sunday Times (25 August 2013) is a reminder that peer-reviewed scientific data are not seen as facts by everyone. Clover gives the example of the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation's (SSPO) "slavish attempt to ingratiate itself with the ruling Scottish National Party, expressed by its chairman, Phil Thomas, as 'Scottish food, Scottish jobs, Scottish communities, Scottish economy, Scottish salmon'". Clover comments further, "it is hard to say who looks after the traditional public goods of Scotland: the landscapes, the marine life and the wild fish". Indeed Mr Clover, you are right.

Another example of scientific data denial is the interminable and often wildly inaccurate statements of Dr Martin Jaffa, the publicist for the pro salmon farming company, Callander McDowell. Dr Jaffa's most recent post is published on the Callender McDowell website under the title ReLAKS.

Finally, in his leader today, Charles Clover brings us right up to date by pointing out the erroneous criticisms by Dr Jackson of the Irish Marine Institute of the peer-reviewed research data published by the Royal Society in 2012. He writes, "The SSPO has been silent since last week, when a peer-reviewed journal published a paper by the original group of scientists (who wrote the Royal Society paper) rubbishing Jackson's methodology and correcting his conclusions"

The robust response of St Andrews University in standing firmly behind the scientific conclusions of the original Royal Society article poses the question, 'whose evidence do you trust; the data offered by the world class Institute of Ocean Sciences at St Andrews University, or the statement by the industry propagandist, SSPO? In my view there is no context. But then I am biased because St Andrews is my Alma Mater!

Perhaps optimistically Charles Clover then states "the scientific debate may have a way to go but the findings look certain to alter the development of the industry", and later in the same paragraph, "In Scotland landowners may have the ammunition to force fish farms away from the mouths of wild salmon and sea trout rivers. Worldwide investors have been given notice that the future lies not in sea cages, but in close containment systems that separate farmed fish from the environment". My only contention with Mr Clover is that it is not only 'landowners' who will benefit from a resurgence of wild salmon and sea trout on the Scottish west coast. You only have to visit Sutherland's Scourie Hotel or the Loch Maree Hotel to see what has been lost to highland local communities.

Charles Clover's article comes at the end of the week in which the Natural Capital Forum announced its "Revolution in how businesses and governments account for natural capital". There will be a conference in Edinburgh on 21 & 22 November 2013 to discuss the objectives of the Forum. The conference takes forward the 2012 UN Earth Summit, an aim of which is that "by 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems".

Also last week Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) announced the designation of six indicator species designed to act as 'canaries' for the coastal environment as it is affected by climate change. SNH's remit is of course the Scottish environment, which omits migratory species that spend parts of their lives elsewhere. While Ospreys, Painted Lady butterflies and basking sharks are migratory visitors to Scotland, the Atlantic salmon and the eel are special as freshwater/coastal/oceanic indicator species. I am reminded of the campfire song that goes something like .."the hip bone is connected with the thigh bone, the thigh bone with the knee bone, the knee bone with the shin bone" etc.

The reality we face is that, in the face of huge changes in the earth's climate, we need to think bio-regionally, outside national borders. Now is the time for ecologists, meteorologists and climate change monitors to work across the disciplines. Fisheries scientists, biologists, managers and the public need the big picture to make the right decision on the ground or river bank.

TA 25 Aug 2013

Atlantic Salmon Trust's profile picture

New technologies must save wild salmon & sea trout

added: 19th Aug 2013

What is the future of salmon farming?

Here is some updated thinking on the subject of this currently unsustainable industry.

[b]AST's long term vision for salmon farming is that it exists...

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in parallel with wild salmonids, without causing them harm or damaging their freshwater and marine habitats. For that to happen there will have to be new methods and technologies designed for each type of location. AST accepts that there is unlikely to be a simple, one-coat-fits-all solution to the problems caused by the current prototype regime of open-mesh cages in fragile inshore locations.[/b]

AST argues that the industry needs to move away from such systems towards a more sophisticated and sustainable range of technologies and methods, among which are Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). Read on......

Aqua Nor 2013:The Benefits of Using RAS Systems

15 August 2013

NORWAY - Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) are used all around the world for the production of many fish species in a more efficient controlled environment, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor, from Aqua Nor 2013, in Trondheim, Norway.

RAS farming is an excellent use of technolgy to manage water quality and fish welfare more effectively, said Jacob Bregnballe, Akva Group, whilst giving his keynote presentation on RAS in Europe at Aqua Nor 2013. Using RAS gives farmers more control over the system and its environment.

The control of effluents and waste is much easier in RAS as the farmer has less waste going out. The ability to have more control over the quality of the water also helps to producer healthier fish in a good welfare environment.

The recirculating aquaculture system itself is broke down into several components. The mechanical filtration cleans feaces from the water which are bigger than 40-50 microns, preparing it for the biofilter.

The degaser then strips the water of CO2 which is very important to the health and welfare of the fish as it allows for optimal growth and feed conversion rates.

After oxygen has been injected to enhance the O2 availability, the pumps come into use.

Pumps can be custom designed to suit the system, therefore reducing costs and improving efficiency.

Overall, energy costs are quite good in RAS. They are about the same as in flow-through systems yet they offer the extra control.

Another advantage of using RAS is that the whole system can be monitored and controlled from a mobile, laptop or tablet device. It also allows for conditions to be tracked and recorded over time.

RAS systems are also a more sustainable form of fish farming as they use a huge 99.4 per cent less water than other farming methods.

Also speaking about RAS, Frode Mathiesen from Grieg Seafood, said that he expects a seven per cent growth in RAS each year.

Offering excellent control and a more sustainable way of farming, it is no suprise that the popularity and use of RAS is growing all over the world. However, Mr noted that he would like to see more research into fish welfare and CO2 in RAS.

- See more at:

The most advanced UK company promoting RAS but yet to start production is FishFrom, based in Scotland.

Tony Andrews

August 2013