A brief history of Salmon

Salmon has always been part of the coastal pursuits of Scotland, but farming this wonderful fish hasn't always gone quite so swimmingly.


It has been a long, long time since salmon were truly plentiful but the signs from the past show us just how much there was.

Found in a Mill in Mortimer’s Cross, near Leominster, Herefordshire was a poster from the 19th century limiting the amount of times a week salmon could be offered to the staff. Funnily enough oysters were also limited! It shows how times have changed. Salmon and oysters were so plentiful that employers were not allowed to overuse them.

There have been many attempts to change the fauna and flora of the Highlands. The famous play “The Cheviot, the stag and the black, black oil” demonises these changes as estate owners tried to make their estates profitable. It has always been a difficult job making an estate pay in the Highlands. In fact a lot of estates never make money despite the popular depiction of the laird as a despotic villain.

The attempts to reinforce the salmon runs in West Coast rivers involved killing brown trout and introducing salmon from different areas and even different countries. A river in our area introduced salmon from Norway in the 1920s! Also in our area a very large percentage of the Sea Trout were introduced in the 1950s from Poland of all places. So people have been trying to enhance the fishing for a very long time. It is difficult for people to keep these estates together and these wonderful country pursuits are worth defending.

Coastal pursuits

Salmon has always been part of the coastal pursuits of Scotland. Netting for them employed people from The South East coast right around to the Western Isles. Few are employed in this pursuit now. The decline in salmon all around our coast has meant that all the jobs that supported our coastal communities have come under threat.

The highest period of catches on record occurred in the late 1960s and since then numbers in our rivers have been much lower. There are some who say that numbers of sea trout and salmon have declined since salmon farming started in the late 1970s and in our area that is when salmon farming started. We include some graphs below to give an idea of the levels of both local and  national. It would be a disaster if Loch Duart were to reduce the viability or the population of these wonderful species. So it is our job to work with the local estates and Fishery Trust to ensure that we investigate this possibility. We pledge that we will change and improve if any connection between the decline and our farms is found.

Scottish Total Wild Salmon Catches 1952 – 2009