Wild salmon numbers crash

by Charlie White

Over the last forty years, salmon numbers have more than halved, from 8 – 10 million in the early 1980s to 3 – 4 million in 2016 according to NASCO, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

“We are sleep walking into a global ecological tragedy,’ says new Atlantic Salmon Trust President, Earl Percy. “The Atlantic salmon is a keystone species, central to aquatic biodiversity, an indicator of pristine freshwater environment and a bell-weather for environmental change.

Earl Percy 1

“Salmon carry information about the condition of the oceans right back to the rivers and this drastic decline is symptomatic of widespread problems thousands of miles away. We need to understand what is happening and initiate reforms that will save much more than just the Atlantic salmon.”

Earl Percy will be the AST’s third President since the charity was founded at Fishmongers’ Hall London in 1967. Earl Percy’s appointment follows the sudden death of The 6th Duke of Westminster on the 9th August 2016. His Grace had been President and a great supporter of the AST since December 2004. The appointment of the new President is endorsed by the Atlantic Salmon Trust’s Patron HRH The Prince of Wales.

“The work of the AST is invaluable to increase our understanding of the pressures our wild salmon stocks are under,” said Earl Percy. “Studying the salmon’s environment and lifecycle will provide answers to where and why our salmon are struggling. Without empirical data to inform often sceptical decision-makers, it will be impossible to effectively contribute to positive policy formation that is desperately required to protect our marine entire environment.”

The areas of most concern are the coastal zone and wider ocean – marine survival in the East Atlantic has declined from over 15% in the 1980s to less than 5% in the last five years. The AST are utilising new scientific and technological advances to make research into this vast area possible and developing new techniques to track salmonid migration, identifying problems at different stages of their journey.

In addition to its ecological importance the Atlantic salmon generates economic benefits, particularly to remote, rural communities. The salmon is the highest valued species in freshwater game fishing and draws anglers from around the world. Most are passionate about the salmon and make a practical contribution to the conservation effort. In Scotland 80% of rod caught salmon are now returned to the river.

Since 1967 The Atlantic Salmon Trust has been leading the way in research into migratory salmonids. With over £20 million raised, projects have successfully and radically altered the way in which salmon have been managed during the Trusts existence.

2017 marks the Trust’s 50th Anniversary and the AST will be holding an International Scientific Symposium and Gala Fundraising Dinner, hosted by the new President, to launch a new 10-year Science Strategy and three major research initiatives in the marine environment. The celebrations will take place at Syon House, London, kindly donated by the Duke of Northumberland. Information on tickets will be available on the AST website in due course.

Earl Percy will lead the new, enthusiastic and motivated team at AST which includes Chairman Robbie Douglas Miller, CEO Sarah Bayley Slater and new Fundraising Officer Tiggy Pettifer. The Gala Committee planning the event is chaired by AST Board Member Peter Landale.

The AST is funded by private donation. If you would like to make a donation please visit the AST website