Our annual conference – Cold, Clean Water – Steering the Future for Scotland’s Rivers – was held in Aviemore on 28th March. The Conference, attended by over 100 delegates, was opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon MSP.

The event brought together fisheries managers, Scottish Government officials, key agencies and businesses operating in Scotland to discuss the deepening crisis facing Scotland’s wild salmon and freshwater fish and highlighted actions to help achieve a brighter future for these iconic fish. This crisis is not unique to salmon but is impacting wider biodiversity. Our conference covered some of the big challenges and threats faced by the species – including illegal activity, invasive pink salmon, disease and parasites – but crucially looked to the future to identity solutions. The recent decision by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to re-classify Atlantic salmon creates greater urgency for action to be taken – the main UK population of Atlantic salmon has now been reclassified as endangered and global Atlantic salmon populations reclassified from least concern to near threatened.

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland said:

“On behalf of Fisheries Management Scotland, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the conference – both speakers and delegates. Delegates included officials from government and agencies, fishery managers, owners and anglers, scientists and a range of industries including renewable energy and fish farming.” 

Rapidly unfolding environmental changes and human impacts across the Northern Hemisphere are placing salmon at risk. The recent IUCN re-classification for Atlantic salmon is a wake-up call for everyone who cares about this precious species. It is critical that those in power take urgent and decisive action to help reverse this decline.  Co-ordinated action is required to deliver actions that our wild salmon need and ensure that wider efforts to protect and restore the environment take full account of the needs of salmon, including the fundamental requirement for cold, clean water in all our rivers”.

“As our event demonstrated, there is already a fantastic amount of work being delivered to help create a more secure future for wild salmon, but we need to accelerate the pace and scale of work to restore our freshwater and coastal environments which will secure a brighter future for this keystone species.”

The conference also marks the launch of the 2024 Fisheries Management Scotland Annual Review. The review is a snapshot of the action-focussed work undertaken by Fisheries Management Scotland and some essential projects and activities undertaken by our members to help conserve and protect our native, wild fish. The review also contains a number of guest contributors, including the Riverwoods Project, investigations underway on Saprolegnia in wild salmon and an exciting new global initiative – Wild Salmon Connections – to find solutions to our wild salmon crisis. The Review is now available online.