Image from zimbio.com
The Tay is one of Scotland's greatest salmon fishing rivers. The opening of the 2010 angling season is historically heralded by a pipe band, pouring rain and the traditional quaich of whisky. However the difference this year is that fishermen are being urged, implored and begged to put back every fish that they catch in an effort to preserve stocks.
The number of spring salmon returning to the Tay has been declining. This season the numbers are down dramatically, so much so that the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board is asking for more stringent conservation practices.
Image from Financial Times
In other years fishermen could voluntarily release the first salmon they caught every day and keep half of the rest. However this season fishermen will not be able to keep any fish until June and then they can only keep one male under 10 pounds in weight. This is because the biggest decline has been among the early fish, the ones that come during the winter and early spring.
Some experts are saying that climate change is diminishing the survival rates of salmon while they are in the ocean. A large body of evidence from carefully monitored rivers in Ireland, Scotland and Norway shows that an increase in mortality rates between the young salmon entering the sea and the adults returning after one or more winters at sea lies behind the current shortage of salmon of all sea ages. But scientists must figure out the underlying causes of the high losses at sea.
"All rivers are faced with the problem of increasing mortality of salmon at sea, which is widely believed to be due to climate change factors affecting the location and abundance of the food chain upon which salmon depend" according to a spokesman from the Fisheries Board.
Anglers are mainly falling into line. In 2008, 75% of spring salmon caught were released back into the water.
Image from The Scotsman
The new rules are similar to those in force on the Dee, Scotland's other spring salmon river. They were introduced there 15 years ago and now 98% of the salmon are returned to the river during spring fishing to allow them to continue upstream to spawn..