Somewhere along their journey, wild salmon are disappearing

Out of every 100 salmon that leave our rivers for the sea, less than 5 return—a loss of nearly 70% of the population in 25 years. If this decline continues, the iconic wild Atlantic salmon could become an endangered species in 10 years’ time, disappearing from our waters altogether in just 20 or 30 years.

We need to find out what is happening to our salmon on this journey, so we can take steps to inform river managers and policy-makers on how best to implement practical management solutions to protect wild Atlantic salmon, and sea trout, in all areas.

Solving the mystery of our missing salmon

When launched, the Moray Firth Tracking Project was the largest, most ambitious acoustic tracking project to be undertaken in Europe.

The Moray Firth—the route taken by 20% of all salmon that leave the UK— was selected for this reason. The project uses acoustic telemetry to track young salmon (or ‘smolts’) through our rivers, estuaries, and out into the ocean. This research will help us find out:

  • The migration pathways of our salmon
  • The ‘likely suspects’ contributing to their decline
  • How to improve their chances of returning safely to our rivers, both in the Moray Firth and across the UK

So far, 850 smolts have been tagged in an effort to understand their migration routes, to identify where and why so many fish are going missing, and to determine what we can do about it.

Year 1: what do we know so far?

During year 1, our team of scientists and volunteers have taken a positive leap towards discovering what is happening to our salmon.

Initial results suggest that around half of our smolts are going missing in action as they move down our rivers.

Whilst these results are surprising and clearly concerning, it’s encouraging to know that we now have evidence which can guide focused and effective solutions to the problems facing wild salmon.

Year 2 and beyond: what’s next?

Year 2 Update: Due to the COVID-19 restrictions we made the difficult decision to postpone our tracking projects to Spring 2021. During this unexpected interval, we will continue to develop our methodology and refine our strategy; ensuring that, next Spring, we can hit the ground running.

Our scientific team are now working tirelessly to analyse over 15 million data points which were gathered during year 1 of the project. This will allow us to better understand what is happening to these smolts on their journey to sea—and to identify who, or what, is causing them to go ‘missing in action’.

Support our salmon

To continue this vital work, we need your support. Your donations will go towards solving the mystery of our missing salmon, and will help to secure a sustainable future for this remarkable species.

Make your donation here.

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