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The Lochy Smolt Programme

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

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)

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

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






Total River Lochy Wild Salmon and Grilse Catch

1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012


data River and Fisheries Trusts Scotland


Increase in PREDATORS brown trout/sea trout dynamics - over-protected seals and fish-eating birds loss of juvenile and spawning habitat

Increase in sudden WINTER FLOODS

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

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

Fish farms in Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull.

River Lochy

Prevailing wind

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

data Lochaber Fisheries Trust

Mortality of Seaward-Migrating Post-Smolts of Atlantic Salmon Due to Salmon Lice Infection in Norwegian Salmon Stocks
Chapter Authors: J.C. Holst, P. Jakobsen, F. Nilsen, M. Holm, L. Asplm, J. Aure

Lice numbers at Kinlocheil 6 miles from the mouth of River Lochy

local fish farm relocated and closed data Lochaber Fisheries Trust

Can we remove this bottleneck to smolt survival and relocate the 17 fish farms in Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull?
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 Governments plans for an independent Scotland.

Which life stage to stock?

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

Scientific advice on best practice for smolt stocking trial. 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.

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.








Released in Lochy private beats





(50,000 target)

1SW return caught (1yr later)




2SW Return caught (2yrs later)




Total rod caught



34 grilse only

Estimated no of extra spawning fish




Estimated extra egg deposition Marine survival rate

900,000 2%

1,050,000 2.30%

600,000 0.90%

% increase in 5 yr av rod catch





River Lochy reared smolt returns up to 2013

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

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

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


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)!!!

Intensive fish farming and inshore fishing started

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

Strategi: Oppbygging av gytebestanden ved storskala produksjon av smolt i merdanlegget p Evanger og ved Voss klekkeri i femrsperioden 2009-2013

kt innsig av Vossolaks fra naturlig rekruttering

kt naturlig smoltproduksjon Gjenoppbygging av gytebestanden

Fase I
Kultivert Vossolaks

Fase II
Vill Vossolaks

1400 1200 1000

Total catch in bagnet at the inlet of the Vosso watershed: Stamnes og Bolstadfjorden, 2000-2012, n = 2251 (2013 preliminary)

Antall laks

800 600 400 200

0 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

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.
Photo: Uni Environment, Bjrn Barlaup

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 longterm impact of the stocking programme

Investigate and develop methods of towing smolts beyond the impacts in the estuary and releasing on the seaward side

River Vosso

River Lochy

Thank you.