A new study on the wild population of Scottish Salmon, (Salmo salar) has discovered that although fishermen may have landed a record number last year, the fish are getting smaller.
Chris Todd, professor of marine ecology at St Andrews University has studied the fish population on an unnamed Scottish river for the last 17 years. During this time the average grilse, (young fish that returned to spawn after a single winter at sea) has dropped from 2.4kg/5.3lbs and 59cm/23" to a meagre 1.7kg/3.74lbs and 54cm/21" – a fall of one third in weight and a tenth in length.
He also noted a drop in the fishes' fat content of around 80%.
The news is hugely disappointing to both conservationists and fishermen as the record numbers caught had pointed to a revival of the species' fortunes, thanks to measures such as the ending of commercial fishing in the salmon's feeding grounds off West Greenland and the Faroes, as well as a catch and release program among anglers.
Professor Todd suspects climate change is a factor, forcing the young salmon's planktonic food sources further north, and he is concerned that the species may be trapped in a vicious circle with the smaller, thinner fish producing less eggs of a poorer quality.
The research is part of the seven year, £5.5m SALSEA project on Atlantic salmon, the results of which will be delivered at a conference in La Rochelle later this year.
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