SCOTTISH ministers are being urged to act to halt the decline in numbers of an “iconic national species” – wild salmon.

Six leading conservation organisations have formed the Missing Salmon Alliance in a bid to address the “crisis” they say exists for wild salmon.

Numbers are said to have been in “sustained decline” for years, with rivers across the country affected.

Figures due to be released on Wednesday are expected to show wild salmon catches at their lowest since 1952.

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Alan Wells, the chief executive of the Fisheries Management Scotland – part of the Missing Salmon Alliance – said the situation was now at “crisis point”.

He said ministers needed to deliver on commitments to help the species “without delay” as he also urged the Government to “go much further in all areas where they have the power to make a difference”.

His plea came as he said that dwindling fish numbers had already resulted in jobs being lost in some of Scotland’s “fragile rural economies”, with the possibility that more could follow.

Dr Wells said: “The Scottish Government recognise in the Wild Salmon Strategy that there is now unequivocal evidence that populations of Atlantic salmon are now at crisis point.

“An iconic national species is at stake, along with the ecosystems which rely on healthy runs of returning salmon.

“And fragile rural economies which are already struggling because of Covid restrictions and the cost-of-living crisis are facing a further squeeze from a decline in angling income. Jobs have gone. More are now on the line.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Whilst it would be inappropriate to speculate on Official Statistics not yet published, we know that there is now significant evidence showing that populations of Atlantic salmon across the world are at crisis point, and that we must reinvigorate our collective efforts, both nationally and internationally, to ensure a positive future for the iconic species.

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“In response, we have worked closely with a range of organisations, including Fisheries Management Scotland, to develop an ambitious new Wild Salmon Strategy.

“We are currently working with stakeholders to develop an implementation plan for publication by the end of the year which will guide collective action for wild Atlantic salmon across government, business and charitable sectors.

“We have also taken a number of immediate actions to address the issue. A range of conservation measures are already in place, including measures that do not allow anglers or netting operations to retain salmon caught in rivers with low stocks.

“We also continue to ban coastal netting for wild salmon. Local efforts to support the recovery of wild salmon populations across the country are also taking place.”