Enhancing a renowned river to restore populations of Atlantic salmon and sea trout

Working in partnership with foremost evidence-based conservation charity the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), we are restoring Atlantic salmon and sea trout populations in the River Laxford, historically one of the Highland’s most renowned and productive rivers.  

The River Laxford has been a stronghold of Atlantic salmon and sea trout for centuries – its name is Old Norse for salmon fiord – but in recent years their populations have seen a rapid decline, mirroring conditions throughout the world.  

This 10-year study aims to better understand the River Laxford catchment and to restore the numbers of Atlantic salmon and sea trout – a barometer for the health of the whole ecosystem – by improving the quality and habitat of the river.  

It is hoped the project will provide an exemplar for catchment management, with the lessons learnt being directly applicable to other river systems both in Scotland and further afield.  

The scheme is the AST’s first catchment restoration project, which includes the whole river from its source to sea. It benefits from being under single ownership, avoiding any conflicts of interest and optimising the positive impacts of the works.  

Works will include the restoration of native riparian woodland to help stabilise riverbanks, cool the water and improve its quality; together with the removal of instream barriers and blockages. Sophisticated fish telemetry systems, funded by partners Marine Scotland Science, will be installed to accurately monitor how the fish respond to the river restoration.

These include Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag arrays to provide information on behaviours and returning juvenile fish, an Adaptive Resolution Imaging Software (ARIS) fish counter, which uses high-definition sonar to record images of passing fish, as well as environmental monitoring through environmental DNA (eDNA) water surveys.


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