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Electric Salmon Tagging Project to Start in Moray Firth

Dominique Adams

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a salmon going upstream

It is hoped that the high-tech fish tagging project will provide key information to help tackle declining salmon stocks. 

The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, a statutory body responsible for the protection and enhancement of salmon and sea trout fisheries in the Ness district, has this week launched a new salmon tagging project in the Moray Firth. The project will attempt to track the movement of adult salmon in the firth and help determine which rivers they head for.

Chris Conroy, director of the Ness board, said: “This is a hugely exciting initiative and our aim is to capture 60 salmon in the Inner Moray Firth, fit each with an external electronic acoustic tag, and release them again.

“We will install a ‘gateway’ of acoustic receivers across Chanonry Point and the Sutors of Cromarty. When a tagged fish passes a receiver it will ping and we’ll know which way it’s gone.

“Acoustic receivers will also be installed in rivers between the Deveron in the south round to the Brora and Helmsdale in the north. This will hopefully build up the first complete pattern of where the adult salmon are going.”

The project, which is funded by Marine Scotland, is a collaborative effort between The Ness board, Ness and Beauly Fisheries Trust, local netsmen, the University of Glasgow and the Atlantic Salmon Trust. The acoustic tags to be used in the project were donated by Aberdeen Harbour Authority.

Keith Young, engineering director at Aberdeen Harbour, said: “These acoustic tags were an innovative and invaluable way for us to track salmon during our 2017 Nigg Bay salmon tracking study.

“Understanding and protecting our marine environment is a vital part of our South Harbour expansion and we are pleased that these tags can be used to improve our understanding of salmon movement around the Scottish coast.”

Conroy added: “Last year’s Scottish catches were the lowest on record, causing great concern, and evidence-based management is a key part of the solution.

“We will be tagging over a three-week period. This will provide information on the direction and time of travel of the fish, survival rates and their last-known position. This will allow us to better manage our fragile salmon stocks.

“The netsmen in the firth are extremely conservation-minded and we have worked in partnership on various successful conservation initiatives over the past 10 years. Once again, they are keen to work with us in delivering this cutting-edge project.

“We would ask that if any angler catches a tagged fish, please do not remove the tag. Simply record the unique number on the blue ‘Floy’ tag, release the fish and notify the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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