Project Laxford is a partnership between Reay Forest Estate and the AST and is supported by Marine Scotland Science and the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust. Its overall aim is to identify primary factors limiting salmon and sea trout production in the Laxford catchment. This will inform targeted management actions to restore the catchment and provide the best possible conditions for salmon and sea trout to thrive. The effectiveness of these management actions will be assessed over time using robust science and up-to-date monitoring techniques.
Project Laxford Update
Technical project manager, Chris Conroy, arrived in post in October 2021 and is embedded in Grosvenor’s Reay Forest Estate team. He has been working to produce a ‘catchment audit’ which brings together existing information to describe the catchment, the status of salmon and sea trout populations in the catchment and helps to identify potential factors or pressures limiting production.
Protected Species Surveys & New Tech
Chris has been working with Grosvenor’s Reay Forest team to complete protected species surveys and secure the necessary permissions required to install a network of Marine Scotland Science funded Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag detection arrays. Unlike tags that actively transmit a signal and require batteries (such as satellite or acoustic tags), PIT tags instead respond to an antenna’s electromagnetic field. The lack of a battery means that a tagged fish can be detected over the course of its entire lifecycle, i.e. as a parr, smolt, returning adult or even potentially as a repeat spawner!
Working with UHI Inverness College
Chris and the Grosvenor team have been working with the Rivers and Lochs Institute at UHI Inverness College to deliver the first phase of an environmental DNA (eDNA) project aimed at characterising fish communities in the Laxford catchment. Fish and other organisms release eDNA into the river environment via faeces, mucus, gametes, etc. This can be detected through the collection, filtration and DNA sequencing (metabarcoding) of water samples. This allows us to determine the presence and distribution of fish and other species. This first phase involved the collection of water samples from 30 sites across the Laxford catchment (90 samples in total) and we eagerly await the results.