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Conservation of Wild Salmon

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016 outlined for the first time a system under which 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

Conservation Status Assessment for the 2019 Season

Following public consultation in the autumn of 2018 and scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament in March 2019, Scottish Ministers made new regulations setting out the salmon conservation measures for the 2019 fishing season.  These came into effect on 1 April 2019. 

The Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 are available on the legislation website.

Consultation on proposed river gradings for the 2020 salmon fishing season

The Scottish Government has now undertaken an assessment of the conservation status of salmon in inland waters in Scotland for the 2020 fishing season. We have prepared a short video explaining the annual assessment.

As a result of the latest assessment, it is proposed that the grading of a number of rivers or groups of rivers will change for the coming year.  Details of the assessment and of the proposed river gradings, can be found at the following link: Consultation and Application of Conservation Limits

As required under the terms of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003, Ministers are required to publish notice of the proposals and to invite representations or objections on them. 

This consultation period begins on 20 August 2019 and representations or objections in respect of them should be submitted by no later than 19 September 2019 using the contact details below. 


Or by post to: Marine Scotland, Salmon and Recreational Fisheries Team, Area 1B North                                              Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ

You may also check the proposed 2020 grading for individual rivers at the following link: Scotland - Proposed river gradings 2020

High Level Pressures on Salmon

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.

In January 2019 the Scottish Government submitted a draft Implementation Plan for 2019‑24 to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) setting out our plans to conserve and protect Atlantic salmon over the five year period.  We are considering comments on the draft and, following further discussions, this will be finalised by November 2019.

This is the International Year of the Salmon. IYS2019 – “Salmon and People in a Changing World’ – is being led by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) and aims to raise awareness and understanding of the social and economic benefits that salmon provide, and to highlight the many issues facing salmon around the world.  In Scotland we are working with various partners to promote IYS2019 at events, festivals, conferences and elsewhere.

On 11 July 2019 the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) published a report on Wild Salmon and followed this with two associated blog articles. Links to these can be found under Further Reading at the side of this page.

Salmon in Coastal Waters

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 was paid to those active coastal fishermen who have been unable to fish for salmon due to the prohibition, for a 3 year period from 2016 to 2018 inclusive, while further research was undertaken to assess the long term position.  The Scottish Government paid £567,806.43 per annum in these three years. The list of recipients can be found online.

Following the assessment of the research done, and of the status of salmon stocks for 2019, the Scottish Government has determined that the prohibition on retaining salmon caught in coastal nets should remain in place.

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

A Quick Guide to River Gradings

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).