Why are salmon numbers declining on the River Tweed?

Declining salmon numbers on the world-famous River Tweed is having an impact on the Borders economy with fewer anglers visiting and staying locally.

In less than a decade catches have gone from an all-time high of 23,000 to just 5,510 in 2019.

23,000

salmon swam in the River Tweed.

5,010

salmon recorded in the Tweed in 2019.

French White, from the Hawick Angling Club, has fished in the Tweed District for decades. He said: "At the moment I would describe it as the lowest I've seen, in over 50 years of fishing.

"It's affecting us very badly, financially - our ticket sales are less than half on what they were ten years ago, but our rents and rates are going up and it's quite a burden on the club. Are we going to be able to sustain it?"

Scientists from the Tweed Foundation - a charity that protects freshwater fish and their habitats - are looking for sponsors to fund an in depth study they hope will help.

Biologists believe the loss of young salmon, known as smolt, may be a contributing factor to the decline of numbers in the Tweed District.

Credit: PA

A tracking study was carried out found that only 16 of the 45 tagged smolts released in the Gala Water reached the North Sea.

In Spring 2020, the foundation hopes to release 150 salmon smolts into the to monitor their progress downstream and identify where losses take place. A single tag costs £275 and the foundation is suggesting a minimum donation of £25.

James Hunt, a biologist from the Tweed Foundation, said: "The question is how many smolts are making it down the river successfully from tributaries here on the gala water out to sea.

"Out at sea its probably climatic change, natural, manmade, those are the factors out at sea, but within the river we've got a number of different predators - mammal, bird and fish - and we have to be objective in the way we investigate that so we'll see where the losses are, but actually trying to pinpoint what's taking those fish or reducing survival out to see, that's the difficult bit."

In 2015, an economic impact study calculated that angling brought £24m into the region's economy, supporting the equivalent around 500 jobs.