Stocking salmon from hatcheries is an old and sometimes controversial management option

The development of a hatchery on the Dee has long been a bone of contention on the catchment. It is a topic which generates a lot of conjecture and strong feelings on both sides of the debate. Following the devastation of Storm Frank, the Dee Board took the decision to revisit this topic with a fresh set of eyes in 2016 by commissioning an independent study into the feasibility of stocking Atlantic Salmon to help boost rod catches on the Dee. 

The River Office developed an open tender, which was approved by all Board members and placed in the public realm. 

A small panel of Board members (Richard Gledson, Dee Board Chairman; Lawrence Ross, Proprietor, Lower Blackhall & Kinneskie/Invery &Tilquhillie; William Foster, Proprietor Park Estate; Bert Webster, Ghillie, Park Estate/Chair Dee Ghillies’ Association; Robert Harper, Ghillie, Lower Crathes & West Durris and Dave MacDonald, Anglers’ Representative) was created to review all the tenders received and to recommend a contractor to the Board. The panel considered a number of submissions. After careful deliberation, the panel agreed unanimously that the Board should appoint the  Forth Fisheries Trust to undertake the study. 

Forth Fisheries Trust led the study and together with the support of Trex Ecology, the University of Stirling, The Queen’s University of Belfast and Aqua EcoSystems BV, asked and answered the following question:

Is a hatchery a practical, cost effective, sustainable and beneficial way of boosting rod catches of adult Atlantic Salmon in the Dee?

The authors concluded that it is not currently appropriate to stock the Dee with Atlantic Salmon of any life history stage to enhance the fishery. The authors give several reasons for this including the risks to the wild population, the high costs of a hatchery operation, the potential returns and that the granting of a licence to stock salmon in the river is highly unlikely. The authors do consider that there may be scenarios where conservation stocking may be of value to protect the stocks against catastrophe. With that in mind, the report suggests the Dee should consider when a hatchery may be of use for this limited purpose only. The report and appendices were published in October 2016.

The authors consulted a wide range of individuals throughout the catchment and further afield to ensure a broad range of opinion and expertise helped inform the study. A copy of the communication log can be viewed here

Following the publication of the report, a questionnaire was circulated to all beat owners. 86% of responders rejected the idea of establishing a hatchery on the Dee. The summary of the responses can be viewed here.

The beat owners ranked the following Management Activities they wish to be delivered for the Dee. Click on each link to learn more about what we are doing.

1.       Habitat Restoration,

2.       Maintaining the Moratorium on coastal netting,

3.       Predator Control,

4.       Marine survival research

5.        The removal of obstructions

The Board considered the findings of the report in conjunction with Proprietor feedback. At its meeting of 18 January 2017 the Board adopted the following policy.

Following the independent review into hatcheries the majority of the proprietors of the salmon fishery have told the Board that they are not convinced that a hatchery is the right tool at this time to manage the Dee but rather a combination of continuing to improve habitat, reducing losses of fish at sea, recognising and pursuing an effective predator management strategy and removing obstacles to fish migration should be areas of priority.


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