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The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb RLA Hatchery and Restoration Manager TO VIEW PRESENTATION CLICK SLIDE SHOW TAB IN TOOLBAR ABOVE AND THEN CLICK FROM.

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Presentation on theme: "The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb RLA Hatchery and Restoration Manager TO VIEW PRESENTATION CLICK SLIDE SHOW TAB IN TOOLBAR ABOVE AND THEN CLICK FROM."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb RLA Hatchery and Restoration Manager TO VIEW PRESENTATION CLICK SLIDE SHOW TAB IN TOOLBAR ABOVE AND THEN CLICK FROM BEGINNING. USE FWD/BACK ARROWS ON YOUR KEYBOARD TO PROCEED THROUGH PRESENTATION.

2 HATCHERY Catch and release Predation control Habitat improvements Sea lice management Practical Fishery Management River Lochy Although it plays a key role, the management of the Lochy is not just about stocking from the hatchery It is only one part of a myriad of activities to try and maximise salmon production – eg water flow management, Catch&Release, habitat restoration, poaching control, predator control, sea lice management negotiation with fish farmers etc. Etc.

3 LOCHABER STOCKING PROJECTS 2010 Facilities = Drimsallie Hatchery, (broodstock and all juvenile stages), 4 satellite hatcheries and 2 MH loch-based smolt farms River Lochy30,000 – 100,000 S1 indigenous smolts treated against sea lice infestation River and Loch Shiel8,000 indigenous S1 smolt stocking Captive broodstock programme Fed fry stocking River Ailort/Loch EiltCaptive salmon broodstock programme Indigenous smolt stocking planned Fed fry stocking Kingairloch Estate Ardtornish Estate5 x Captive broodstock programmes Conaglen Estate5 x indigenous fry stocking programmes Braeroy Estate Kilchoan Estate But stocking programmes do form a very important part of the management of local river systems. The Lochys Drimsallie Hatchery works in partnership with other satellite hatcheries in the region and also the local fish farm companies to deliver a wide range of stocking strategies depending on a rivers requirements. The Lochy smolt programme is just one, albeit the largest, of these.

4 The aim is to stock 100,000 smolts for a continuous period of three years into the main stem of the Lochy. Already we are in the second year of a pilot study that has seen the stocking of up to 30,000 smolts pa. The results of this has given us the confidence to continue to the full project. Producing such high volumes of fish is only possible due to the assistance of local fish farm company Marine Harvest. Broodstock are captured in the Lochy then their eggs are taken on to fry at Drimsallie Hatchery. These fry are then moved to the Marine Harvest farm in Lochy Arkaig at the top of the Lochy catchment. The fish are taken on to smolt in the loch and are released during the wild smolt migration the following spring. The bulk of the smolts are released on the Lochy private beats by lorry but a proportion are also taken to the inaccessible headwaters by helicopter.

5 FED FRY – 1g, 2cm long 2-3 years in the river SMOLT – 45g, 12cm long 1 – 2 weeks in the river FRY v SMOLT? There are huge advantages to stocking with smolt rather than much smaller and younger fry. The first is that the smolts do not eat the food in the river that is available for the wild-reared fish, thus protecting this part of the population. The second is that due to their size and age the survival rate through to adulthood is much higher with a smolt stocking strategy. The one proviso is that in order to avoid a genetic bottleneck the brood fish have to mixed thoroughly at spawning time in order to get the maximum amount of genetic variety in the next generation.

6 That smolt release programmes have worked in other parts of the world is undisputed. The most famous is the Ranga in Iceland. This graph shows the early days of the Ranga programme. The latest figures for the Ranga show a release of one million smolts per annum producing a rod catch of 14,000 salmon! However it is important to note that the Ranga is essentially an artificial system as it supports little natural salmon spawning habitat and the smolt survival rate in Iceland is much higher than in Scotland. The Ranga fishery also catch a very high percentage of their returning fish.

7 The same fishery manager then went on to this Icelandic river and did the same thing

8 River Carron, Wester Ross A bit closer to home though, Bob Kindness on the Carron in Wester Ross has used smolt stocking from 2001 onwards as part of his strategy to rapidly reverse the fortunes of this small west coast river.

9 Compare these results to a river closer to the Lochy – this is the graph from the River Awe Counter which is the only truly reliable measure of wild salmon runs in the Loch Linnhe region. It shows an alarming decline. The Awe recently closed its hatchery while the Lochy stocking has been increased. It will be a measure of the usefulness of the smolt stocking to compare these neighbouring major west coast rivers over the coming years.

10 This adjusted graph shows that there used to be very little difference between the fortunes of the East and West coast rivers. From the late 1980s onwards this changed. The west coast aquaculture industry was born in the late 1980s. While we have seen some recent improvements in the relationship, with east coast catches very abundant in 2010 and west coast stocks unimpressive at best it seems that the gap is becoming even wider. It is clear therefore that there is a LOCAL west coast issue at play alongside all the well- documented high seas issues that affect all scottish stocks.

11 THE PLIGHT OF OUR SALMON – are all the problems in the high seas? Increase in predators – resident brown trout increasing/sea trout decreasing - common seals far too abundant - over-protected fish-eating birds Increase in winter spates – loss of juvenile habitat Increase in freshwater temperatures – change in resident/migratory fish - disruption to migratory timing Increase in spring droughts – disruption to smolt migration/ increased predation Forestry harvesting – heightened aluminium levels and run off profiles Hydro operations – sudden spate events disruption to ease and timing of migration Local fish farms sea lice disease transfer interuption of salmons scenting/homing ability escapes/interbreeding There are a whole host of factors that are likley to be influencing the Lochy stocks on top of the wider issues at sea. We are often told that the problem is all at sea. Is this strictly true? While we would agree that there are some serious feeding issues in the north norwegian sea, we also believe that the scottish west coast faces some grave local issues as well.

12 This is a map of the different fish farm areas on the west coast of Scotland separated into their management zones. The Lochy lies at the head of the biggest of these management zones

13 This is the distribution of fish farms in the north part of the west coast. Note also that the estuaries of rivers are not very long and face largely west or north west.

14 This is the distribution in the Lochy region – somewhat different! The estuary is also very long and thin and faces the prevailing wind to the South West. It is hardly surprising that sea lice and other fish farm impacts appear to be far worse in the Loch Linnhe region where 25% of scottish production is farmed. The Government has no intention of relocating these farms in spite of constant lobbying by wild fish groups including Lochy interests.

15 Towing the smolt run to sea - Norway The same problem occurs in parts of Norway where sea lice from fish farms are thought to be having a serious impact on salmon stocks. On one river they have attempted to mitigate against that by running a smolt rearing programme and towing the smolts 60km past the fish farms before releasing them!

16 Here on the Lochy though we are taking a slightly different approach. Prior to release, the smolts (from 2010 onwards) are being treated with an anti sea lice chemical called SLICE which gives the smolts 5 weeks protection against lice infestation. We are also feeding them a product called Biomos which gives them an extra layer of slime on the skin and thus an armour plating against sea lice as well. Our partnership with local fish farm company Marine Harvest makes such innovative approaches possible.

17 RESULTS AND EXPECTATIONS 18,000 smolts released as a pilot study in 2009 Smolts not treated with SLICE and estuary was in 2 nd year of production (usually bad for sea lice infestation) 20 fin clipped grilse from that release caught by anglers in 2010 Based on 10% catch ratio, this points towards around a > 1% survival rate from smolt to returning grilse (200 extra fish running) Additionally we would expect perhaps another 0.4% of the 2009 smolt cohort to return as 2SW salmon in 2011, along with grilse from the SLICED 2010 release of 28,000 smolts So unsliced smolts have given us an estimated 1.4% survival Experiments in Norway and Ireland with SLICE treated smolts have seen increased smolt survival rates from untreated groups. Up to 3 fold increase Therefore we expect a (conservative) future rate of 2.5% for Lochy sliced smolt releases (lesser rate of 1% for Dessary headwater releases ). 15%/10% rod exploitation rate expected for Lochy/Dessary returns

18 Release YR Released in LOCHY 18,000 UNSLICED 18,00030,00090,000100,000 Released in DESSARY 010, EXPECTED NO OF FISH RETURNING (grilse and salmon) If we put all that together we get to the following predictions for the Lochy fishery. The aim is to gear up for 3 annual releases of 100,000 SLICE treated smolts and then assess the projects success. The extra fish caught by rod that this should create is shown below. At current levels this represents an approximate doubling of the Lochy rod catch.

19 Some 2010 fin-clipped grilse The rod-caught fin clipped grilse in 2010 ranged from 4lbs to 11.5lbs. Generally they were healthy fat fish. All bar one were caught on the private beats where they were released as smolts.

20 This is the longest rod catch data set available on the Lochy – it only shows 2 miles of the Upper Lochy. What is interesting is that it shows that the 1960s and 70s were a period of particular abundance relative to the last 100 years. While it would be good to think we can revisit these 1970 levels we have to remain realistic. That said, there appears to be no reason why we should not be capable of doubling the current Lochy rod catch over the next few years with our smolt-release programme.

21 WINNER 2009 MALLOCH TROPHY Sandy Walker, Inverlochy AC 32lbs June 2009, River Lochy, tidal beat And with fish like this still running the river we should have every reason for hope. Where else can you catch fabulous fish like this in such private and stunning surroundings? While we cant promise the increased numbers of fish will all be this size, we hope that you will come and join us next season and land a few of them with us. Thank you! Jon Gibb, Lochy Restoration Manager


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