Innovative project to track Atlantic salmon in Galloway

The global population of wild Atlantic salmon continues to decrease, with research highlighting a range of suggested impacts and reasons, including changing climate and the impact of humans on freshwater and oceanic systems.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:04 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:04 pm
Salmon smolts being trapped in the River Dee

An innovative project has launched in the River Dee using advances in acoustic telemetry to ‘track’ progress of salmon smolts down the river towards the sea.

The Dee runs from the Galloway Hills through the Galloway Forest Park and reaches the sea at Kirkcudbright.

The river catchment hosts a variety of challenges for migrating species, including the Galloway Hydro- Electric Scheme.

Galloway Fisheries Trust (GFT), are leading work to tag Atlantic salmon smolts before they start their journey.

As each tagged fish pass a series of 16 bankside receivers, they will ‘ping’ the receiver, transmitting the time, location and also confirmation of which individual is passing.

Supported by the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), GFT aims to capture and tag a total of 50 smolts during their 4-6 week migration window using a combination of fyke nets, rotary screw trap and electrofishing.

Smolts should have completed their migration by the end of July, which is when all in-stream equipment will be removed, and data analysed.

This project is one of the first in south-west Scotland to use acoustic telemetry to understand migratory patterns of Atlantic salmon smolts as they migrate out to sea.

It is being led by Dr Samantha Beck from Galloway Fisheries Trust.

Sam said: “As smolts prepare for their migration downstream, they undergo dramatic changes in their physiology, behaviour and morphology, so that they are able to cope with conditions at sea.

"Any delays in their timing of sea entry may be critical to their chances of survival. This project will allow us to target areas of concern for management and maximise the chances of smolts reaching the sea on time, whilst also potentially increasing the number of adults returning to spawn in subsequent years.

"We would like to thank our funders (Drax, Galloway Glens and the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board) and AST/University of Glasgow, as well as the landowners for making this project happen.”