Home   News   Article

North west Sutherland sporting estate joins forces with conservation charity in bid to stem 'extremely worrying' decline of salmon numbers

By Caroline McMorran

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

A groundbreaking initiative is being launched in a bid to reverse the “extremely worrying” decline of salmon and sea trout populations in a north west Sutherland river.

Reay Forest Estate has joined forces with salmon conservation charity the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST) with the aim of boosting fish numbers in the River Laxford.

Reay Forest is managed by the Grosvenor Estate, owned by Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster.

The 10-year-partnership, which was driven forward by the duke, is also being supported by Marine Scotland Science and West Sutherland Fisheries Trust.

It is the first time AST has been involved in a catchment restoration project which includes a whole river from its source to the sea.

And it is hoped that the pioneering project will establish the River Laxford as an “index river”, setting an example of good practice that other river owners can follow, and eventually establishing an index river network.

Historically, the River Laxford was one of the Highlands' most renowned and productive rivers, but in recent years it has seen a rapid decline in fish populations - mirroring conditions in rivers throughout the world.

The duke, who will continue to be heavily involved in the project, said: “The dwindling number of salmon and sea trout in the River Laxford is extremely worrying.

“The data we collect from the study will not only be vital for the salmon restoration project, but also the biodiversity of the entire Reay Forest and surrounding areas in Scotland.”

The initiative involves studying the entire River Laxford catchment area as well as undertaking work to stabilise the river banks to stop sediment entering the watercourse.

It is also planned to develop new woodlands, using native tree species, in order to help to cool the water and improve its quality. In addition, instream barriers and blockages will be removed.

Nicholas Dobbs, head of Grosvenor’s rural estates, said: “In keeping with our aims of protecting and enabling our rare habitats and the flora and fauna they support, we believe this long-term project will support the conservation of these important and iconic species, delivering a lasting environmental benefit.”

Technical project manager Chris Conroy joined the Atlantic Salmon Trust in October to launch the ambitious project.

He said: “With the Atlantic salmon population in decline right across their native range, it is vitally important that we take decisive action to maximise the number of healthy wild juvenile salmon smolts going to sea from our rivers.

“The long-term partnership approach underpinning the project will allow us to not only apply a range of practical management actions within the freshwater, estuarine and coastal areas of the catchment, but also to closely monitor the effectiveness of these actions over time using robust science and cutting-edge monitoring techniques.

“We hope that this will provide an example for catchment management, with the lessons learnt being directly applicable to other river systems.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More