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Conservation of Wild Salmon

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 outlined for the first time a system whereby the killing of Atlantic salmon in inland waters is managed on an annual basis by categorising the conservation status of their stocks. 

In general terms the Regulations:

  • prohibit the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters

  • permit the killing of salmon within inland waters where stocks are above a defined conservation limit
  • require mandatory catch and release of salmon in areas which fall below their defined conservation limit following the assessment of salmon stocks

More generally, the Scottish Government, along with Fisheries Management Scotland and other partners has identified 12 high level pressures impacting salmon in our waters and further afield. Further detail on these pressures, and on some of the key activities underway to address them, is available online.

Conservation Status Assessment for the 2019 Season

The Scottish Government has completed the latest assessment of the conservation status of salmon and Ministers are now consulting on proposals for changes to the regulations and to river gradings for the coming season.

Details of the consultation, along with supporting documentation, are set out online.

Representations on the proposals are invited by 23 November 2018 and should be sent to: SalmonandRecreationalFisheries@gov.scot

You may also check the proposed grading for individual rivers at the following link: Scotland - River gradings 2019


The conservation status of each stock is defined by the probability of the stock meeting its conservation limit over a 5-year period. Rather than a simple pass or fail, stocks have been allocated to one of the following three grades, each with its own recommended management actions: 

Probability of Meeting CL
At least 80%
Exploitation is sustainable therefore no additional management action is currently required. This recognises the effectiveness of existing non-statutory local management interventions.
Management action is necessary to reduce exploitation: catch and release should be promoted strongly in the first instance. The need for mandatory catch and release will be reviewed annually.
Less than 60%
Exploitation is unsustainable therefore management actions required to reduce exploitation for 1 year i.e. mandatory catch and release (all methods). 

Proposed gradings for each river or assessment group can be found online. The Scottish Government proposes that these gradings will be set out in a revised Schedule 2 of the Regulations, which define those inland waters where mandatory catch and release arrangements will apply for 2018. 

Carcass tagging

Carcass tagging for net-caught fish for areas in categories 1 and 2 (including the Tweed District) continues. Further information on the detail of the scheme can be found in the guidance note

Further Work

Further consideration continues to be given to a range of issues including:

  • research to improve current understanding of mixed stock fisheries. The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 introduced legislation to protect declining salmon stocks by, amongst other things, prohibiting the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters. Compensation has been paid to those active coastal fishermen who are unable to fish for salmon due to the prohibition, for a 3 year period from 2016 to 2018 inclusive.  The Scottish Government has paid £567,722.43 per annum in these three years.  The list of recipients can be found online.
  • the predation of salmon in coastal areas
  • interactions between wild salmon and aquaculture
  • marine renewables
  • coastal migratory behaviour of salmon