A new group has formed to push for urgent action to protect wild salmon in a Perthshire river said to be “in crisis”.
The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB) backed the formation of the new Ericht Focus Group at its latest public meeting after an angling representative set out the multiple threats facing salmon swimming in the river.
The board heard many of the threats facing the species are man-made and that the new group was preparing to lobby government agencies and ministers to act on a strategy unveiled earlier this year aimed at improving the condition of rivers so fish can thrive.
The Scottish Government published its Scottish Wild Salmon Strategy in January this year but has already been urged to accelerate the delivery of its priority themes for action after it emerged the number of salmon caught across the country last year was the lowest on record.
Angling representative Jerry Saunders told the TDSFB earlier this month he believed “a new approach” was needed to try and boost numbers in the River Ericht.
Discussing a recent drought on the river, Mr Saunders said he believed the amount of water being abstracted from the river during low flows for whatever reason at the moment “is more than is responsible and acceptable to protect the River Ericht’s valuable ecology”.
“The crisis facing Ericht wild salmon is all man-made - there is nothing natural about it,” he continued.
“This is not just about a local lade, water abstraction and a couple of decrepit weirs. This is about what man has done and is doing to a barometer species, a special area of conservation, to income, to jobs, Scottish tourism, hospitality, biodiversity and the natural environment.”
Mr Saunders went on to recommend the board approve the formation of the new Ericht Focus Group made up of members of the TDSFB and the Blairgowrie and Rattray District Angling Association (BRDAA) to pursue the kind of action needed to protect the river and its salmon.
He said trying to fix some of the problems being experienced on the river would likely incur “significant costs” as hydrologists, engineers and fish-pass experts may need to be hired to come up with solutions.
However he said the Tay Rivers Trust had indicated it was prepared to fund projects and the new group was already considering other ways to raise cash such as crowdfunding.
He added the group were planning a public relations strategy to lobby the Scottish Government to deliver on commitments made in its Scottish Wild Salmon Strategy directly applicable to the River Ericht.
The board unanimously backed the formation of the new group.