LAST year saw the lowest catch for wild Scottish salmon on record, according to official figures.

The Scottish Government released its provisional catch statistics for wild salmon in 2023 on Thursday.

They show that Scottish fisheries caught 33,023 wild salmon last year, which is a staggering 25% reduction when compared to 2022.

In total, it means that 11,139 fewer wild salmon were caught in Scottish waters in 2023.

While the figures may be subject to change when final results are published later this year, conservationists say “much more” needs to be done to protect Scotland’s remaining wild salmon population.

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Dr Alan Wells, CEO of Fisheries Management Scotland, said restoration of rivers through schemes such as the Riverwoods initiative were part of the solution.

“These new statistics provide more evidence of the perilous state of Scotland’s precious migratory fish populations,” he said.

“We are working with our members and partners in the Riverwoods initiative and the Missing Salmon Alliance to restore the freshwater environment and enhance resilience in the face of climate change.

“To support these efforts, the Scottish Government and agencies must do more to address the numerous pressures that we can control.”

River restoration, which was spotlighted by rewilding charity Scotland: The Big Picture in their 2022 film Riverwoods, can help salmon during two crucial periods in their lives.

The National: Scotland: The Big Picture say river restoration is key to saving Scotland's wild salmonScotland: The Big Picture say river restoration is key to saving Scotland's wild salmon (Image: West Cumbria Rivers Trust)

Shade provided by riverside trees help keep water cold enough for young fish while deadwood left in rivers keeps them supplied with food and shelter.

Both measures also provide healthy habitat for adults to spawn and reproduce.

“Salmon numbers reflect the state of our rivers, and river health is largely determined by the management of the surrounding land, so we need to think about the health of whole river catchments if we want to save our last salmon,” said Peter Cairns, executive director of Scotland: The Big Picture.

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The Riverwoods initiative, led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, is supported by a wide partnership of charities, organisations and government agencies, working collaboratively towards ecosystem recovery through the restoration and creation of river woodlands.

Riverwoods partners say they hope that the Scottish Government will make river restoration and salmon conservation a much higher priority as part of their commitments on restoring and improving biodiversity.

The catch data released by the Scottish Government underlines the recent IUCN assessment of wild Atlantic salmon in much of Great Britain as endangered.