View all news

Wild Salmon Restoration in 2024 – An International Movement

We’re working with colleagues across the Atlantic and Pacific to turn science into action for wild salmon

The first few months of 2024 have been extremely busy for our team, both at home in the UK and overseas. We’ve been putting science into action on the ground and progressing three catchment-scale restoration partnership programmes in Scotland: Project Laxford, Project Deveron and Save the Spring. We’ve also been working closely with our Missing Salmon Alliance partners in other parts of the UK to build stronger links with The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust‘s work on the River Frome index river in Dorset.

However we also know that our supporters understand how important it is that we don’t just operate in a UK-centric bubble. Wild Atlantic salmon cross national borders and jurisdictions during their great migration, and so must we. Wild salmon in both the Atlantic and Pacific are under threat, and many other individuals and organisations are also working hard to protect and restore them. It’s essential that important knowledge, restoration solutions and successful strategies are shared across the global ‘salmosphere’.

This report details two of the recent events our team has attended, along with the important takeaway messages.

Free Flow Conference – Netherlands, April 2024

What we can learn from barrier removal efforts in mainland Europe

Barrier removal is a hot topic in mainland Europe and this year’s Free Flow Conference in The Netherlands, organised by the World Fish Migration Foundation, shone a light on the importance of access and connectivity in river catchments. Our Restoration Director, Alison Baker, travelled to the conference following our Wild Salmon Without Borders event in Germany to bring back important lessons that we can learn from and look to implement here in the UK. The conference touched on a range of subjects including dam removal and successful fish passage projects, ecology and hydromorphology in free-flowing rivers, hydropower, policies to achieve free-flowing rivers, and the cultural and socio-economic importance of free-flowing rivers.

”One of the quickest and most effective things we can do to help wild Atlantic salmon is to remove artificial barriers to migration, restoring connectivity in our river catchments and increasing the accessible area for spawning and juvenile production. This is something that really must be accelerated here in the UK and is a key early focus on Project Deveron. By engaging with our colleagues in Europe who are leading successful barrier removal campaigns, we can bring those lessons back to the UK.”

Alison Baker – Restoration Director

One of the most significant lessons from the conference was how practitioners are working to ensure that the environmental case for barrier removal succeeds over the historic/heritage argument for leaving artificial barriers in place. In the fight against widespread biodiversity decline in freshwater systems and the challenges which come from a changing climate, we must accelerate barrier removal at scale and pace to restore connectivity in our watersheds. We will continue to engage with our colleagues in Europe to replicate successful strategies and arguments to support barrier removal projects.

Six Rivers Foundation Fourth International Symposium on the Future of Atlantic Salmon- Iceland, May 2024

Sharing the Project Laxford story and the ‘ecosystem approach’

Our Technical Project Manager for Project Laxford, Chris Conroy, and Restoration Director, Alison Baker, both travelled out to Iceland in late May 2024 to take part in the Six Rivers Foundation‘s Fourth International Symposium on the Future of Atlantic Salmon, alongside colleagues from the Six Rivers Foundation, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU), and Icelandic Marine & Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI).

As projects which combine catchment-scale habitat restoration with state-of-the-art salmon population and environmental monitoring, Project Laxford (a partnership with Grosvenor’s Reay Forest Estate) and Project Deveron (a partnership with the Deveron, Bogie & Isla Rivers Charitable Trust) are being recognised overseas for their approach and potential to inform other wild salmon restoration programmes across the world. Our team was delighted to be able to attend this year’s symposium to share our methodologies from these programmes and provide updates on the action taking place on the ground.

It was clear that, although Iceland is one of the remaining strongholds for wild Atlantic salmon, emerging pressures are putting these populations at risk. Salmon play such a huge part in Icelandic culture that these pressures are being taken very seriously, reflected by a large turnout at the symposium where we had the opportunity to speak about Project Laxford in detail.

”It’s interesting to see how even in Iceland, a country well known for its dramatic volcanic and treeless landscapes, river managers are increasingly looking to actions such as woodland restoration and the ‘ecosystem approach’ to protect their wild salmon populations from the effects of a changing climate. There are many parallels with the work we’re involved with here on Project Laxford and we’re delighted to be able to engage with our colleagues in Iceland for the benefit of everyone trying to restore wild Atlantic salmon.”

Chris Conroy – Technical Project Manager for Project Laxford

As is the case in the UK, there is increasing recognition that the health of salmon populations is heavily influenced by processes taking place within the riverside zone and wider surrounding landscape, many of which influence the growth and fitness of juvenile salmon. This is particularly important given that larger and healthier wild smolts have been shown to have better marine survival success. Iceland is known for its stunning, yet treeless landscape. However, a thousand years ago, around 40% of the island was forested. Within a few centuries of the island being settled by the Norsemen, the trees were cleared and used for fuel and building materials, with land also cleared for agriculture. Grazing by livestock then prevented regeneration of the trees. This is an all to similar story to the situation in the Scottish Highlands.

The Six Rivers Project is therefore delivering an ambitious tree planting programme across a number of river systems. Many of the species are familiar to us in Scotland and include birch, alder, rowan and willow. A visit to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon in the far northeast of the country gave us a glimpse of how things would have looked in the past.

Birch and rowan in the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon

It was encouraging to see close alignment between the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Project Laxford and Six Rivers Iceland, not only in terms of the ‘ecosystem approach’ and restoration of riverside woodland, but also the monitoring techniques used to assess the status of salmon populations and the effectiveness of management actions.

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to receive Atlantic Salmon Trust updates through our newsletter.
It’s the best way to stay up-to-date with all of our news.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.