CONCERN for the future of Scottish salmon is mounting after the worst autumn fishing on one of the country’s biggest rivers for 13 years.
The number of salmon caught on the Tay slumped to 6,000 from last year’s 7,000 – the lowest number since 2003.
One expert said similar low numbers had been reported elsewhere in Scotland and unless stocks rapidly recovered there were serious cause for concern.
The autumn salmon fishing season on the Tay started in September and ended on October 15.
Despite the promising start to the season in the spring, Dr David Summers, director of the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board, said: “The end of the season was very disappointing and unless there is a compensation of fresh fish in the spring season, the drop in the autumn could be very worrying.
“The last time the numbers at the end of the season were this poor was back in 2003 and then maybe you would have to go back to the 1950s to find similar numbers.”
Lack of fresh salmon has led to the concern that changes in sea temperatures had had an effect on fish returning to spawn.
Dr Summers added: “It started so positively, with a particularly strong spring.
“The entire month of April in particular was very strong, but really the fishing was good right through until June.”
Dr Summers said: “Sadly it then trailed off over the summer and we were then faced with autumn fishing that was the poorest for quite some number of years.
“It is not only ourselves that have suffered as poor autumn fishing has been a general problem around Scotland and the UK as a whole.
“It has been clear that what has been lacking was the expected later run of fish.
“A lot of those that we caught on the Tay during the autumn had been in the river for some time.”
“It is possible the autumn run of fish died at sea or, we may see them come at different time of year. Certainly it is pretty worrying.”
The Tay river operates a catch and release policy for salmon fishing to help protect the stocks.