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The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb Restoration Manager, River Lochy Association Clerk, Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board.

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Presentation on theme: "The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb Restoration Manager, River Lochy Association Clerk, Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Lochy Smolt Programme Jon Gibb Restoration Manager, River Lochy Association Clerk, Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board.

2 Lochaber DSFB region Major catchments and salmon and sea trout fisheries River Lochy and tributaries (Lochs Lochy and Arkaig, River Roy) River and Loch Shiel River Ailort and Loch Eilt River and Loch Morar Rivers Aline, Coe, Leven, Moidart, Cona, Scaddle, Strontian, etc. Netting stations at Cuil Bay (Loch Linnhe) and Fascadale (Ardnamurchan)

3 ‘The Lochy is the Queen of Scottish Salmon Rivers’ (John Ashley-Cooper)

4 9 miles of prime fly fishing for salmon on 38 named pools 3 FTE jobs and 5 PTE jobs supported 200 local anglers fish the river and 300 visitors Fishing brings in up to £500,000 pa to local economy


6 data – River and Fisheries Trusts Scotland EAST COAST VERSUS WEST COAST ROD CATCH

7 LOCALISED IMPACTS ON LOCHY SALMON RIVER Increase in PREDATORS – brown trout/sea trout dynamics - over-protected seals and fish-eating birds Increase in sudden WINTER FLOODS – loss of juvenile and spawning habitat Increase in FRESHWATER TEMPERATURES – change in resident/migratory fish - disruption to migratory timing Increase in SPRING DROUGHTS – disruption to smolt migration/ increased predation HYDRO IMPACTS – sudden spate events/disruption to ease and timing of migration ESTUARY LACK OF FEEDING for migrating smolts due to overfishing and prey species habitat degradation Increase in PREDATORS – expansion of common seals and some predator species (eg. cod) Local FISH FARMS escapes/interbreeding disease transfer interuption of salmons scenting/homing ability infestation of smolts by SEA LICE


9 River Lochy Prevailing wind Fish farms in Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull.

10 Lice numbers on post-smolt sea trout at mouth of River Lochy 2002 - 2013 data – Lochaber Fisheries Trust These results suggest that up to 50% of wild smolts may be facing a lethal threat in the estuary at least every other year during their seaward migration

11 local fish farm relocated and closed Lice numbers at Kinlocheil – 6 miles from the mouth of River Lochy data – Lochaber Fisheries Trust

12 Different companies involved operating farms on different production cycles Some of the largest production units in the whole of Scotland are found in the Linnhe/Sound of Mull area The aquaculture industry supports many hundreds of jobs in farming and processing in the Fort William area alone New markets are being developed globally eg. China The licensing system makes it hard for the industry to identify new sites and relocate existing sites The industry forms a key building block for rural self-sufficiency in the Scottish Government’s plans for an independent Scotland. Can we remove this bottleneck to smolt survival and relocate the 17 fish farms in Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull?


14 FED FRY – 1g, 2cm long 2-3 years in the river Difficult to mark and monitor success Up to 500,000pa between 2001 and 2009 SMOLT – 45g, 12cm long 1 - 5 weeks in the river Fully identifiable by adipose fin clip Can protect with SLICE Will take acoustic and PIT tags Trial smolt releases started in 2009 Which life stage to stock?


16 The number of brood fish should be as high as is practicable without endangering the wild spawning population. Adult brood fish should be replaced each year Stripping and fertilisation should be carried out to maximise the diversity of the offspring and equalise the contributions of each adult to the eggs. Broodstock should preferably be sourced late in the year close to spawning areas and their offspring released into the same river. Lochaber Fisheries Trust 2009. Scientific advice on best practice for smolt stocking trial. We do accept that as our indigenous smolts are raised in a hatchery environment they are ecologically different to their wild counterparts. Any future successes will have to be assessed against the trade off and risk to the long-term genetic fitness of the overall stock.

17 River Lochy reared smolt returns up to 2013 RELEASE YEAR20092010201120122013 2014 Released in Lochy private beats18,000 38,50030,000(50,000 target) 1SW return caught (1yr later)2120 34 2SW Return caught (2yrs later)1522 DUE BACK 2014 Total rod caught3642 34 grilse only Estimated no of extra spawning fish360420 340 Estimated extra egg deposition900,0001,050,000 600,000 Marine survival rate2%2.30% 0.90% % increase in 5 yr av rod catch9.70%11% 14% COMPLETED RESULTS AWAITED UNMONITORED RELEASES ONLY

18 FLOY TAGGING marked recapture experiment to investigate rod exploitation rates - 30 wild fish tagged and released in both 2012 and 2013 throughout the season only resulted in one fish being re-caught in each year. Therefore accepted 10% rod exploitation rate used in calculations. RETURNS SUMMARY Approx 2% of smolts back to river as adults and 0.2% back to rods Early indications for current conditions are that every 18,000 smolts released boosts rod catch by 10% and adds I million extra eggs to system. Largest fish landed 20lbs hen salmon and the smallest 3lbs cock grilse An even split of grilse and salmon in spite of a weighting towards the use of MSW salmon broodstock Fish caught from May onwards but a weighting towards the back end of the season (a disadvantage). Very few fish caught above the top release point, catches evenly distributed through river Angler education on checking for fin clips a major hurdle in the project

19 Fin clipped returns allows an easing of 100% catch and release

20 Cost analysis calculations based on 38,000 smolts released at 2% return rate and 0.2% rod exploitation Each Lochy rod caught salmon has an approximate ‘rental ‘value of £300 Each Lochy rod caught salmon has an approximate capital value of £6000 THE PROGRAMME IS HEAVILY SUBSIDISED BY OUR INDUSTRY SPONSORS Each smolt costs the River Lochy Association around 24p to produce (without subsidy £2) Each extra returning spawning adult costs the RLA £12 to produce (without subsidy £100) Each extra 1000 ova in river costs approximately £4.80 to produce (without subsidy £40) Each extra rod caught salmon costs £120 to produce (without subsidy £1000)!!!

21 Intensive fish farming and inshore fishing started

22 Some key questions Would we be operating a smolt programme if we thought there was a realistic chance of removing salmon farms from the path of migrating smolts? NO Would a smolt programme be a cost effective tool were it not for the heavy financial/in kind assistance from Marine Harvest and our other partners? NO Has the smolt programme been effective in mitigating against the effects of sea lice? AS YET, NOT PROVEN Do we feel that the benefits of operating the smolt programme outweigh the risks? CURRENTLY, YES Do we feel that we can improve on the current programme? YES, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARDS RESEARCH USES AND NEW RELEASE STRATEGIES

23 Strategi: Oppbygging av gytebestanden ved storskala produksjon av smolt i merdanlegget på Evanger og ved Voss klekkeri i femårsperioden 2009-2013 Gjenoppbygging av gytebestanden Økt naturlig smoltproduksjon Økt innsig av Vossolaks fra naturlig rekruttering Fase IFase II Kultivert Vossolaks Vill Vossolaks

24 Total catch in bagnet at the inlet of the Vosso watershed: Stamnes og Bolstadfjorden, 2000-2012, n = 2251 (2013 preliminary) Photo: Uni Environment, Bjørn Barlaup Angling 2013. River re-opened for 5 weeks only on one Beat 5 rods over 5 weeks caught 358 salmon and grilse 90% were fin clipped.

25 Priorities for the Lochy programme for the next 5 years Further develop ties with Vossolauget and other European partners to improve smolt release methods and best practice Research the relative importance of sea lice infestation on spawning populations through treated/untreated groups of smolt releases Research the relative importance of other local freshwater and estuarine impacts through acoustic tagging of smolts Use developing genetic tools to improve broodstock selection and monitor long- term impact of the stocking programme Investigate and develop methods of towing smolts beyond the impacts in the estuary and releasing on the seaward side

26 River Vosso River Lochy

27 Thank you.

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