Warm win­ter puts stocks of salmon at their low­est ebb

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Sarah Knap­ton science ed­i­tor

SALMON stocks have fallen to record lows in Bri­tish rivers be­cause of a warmer win­ter, ex­perts be­lieve.

The Game & Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust said the num­ber of ju­ve­nile salmon leaving the Frome river in Dorset for their feed­ing grounds in the North At­lantic in 2017 was half the 10-year av­er­age and the low­est num­ber ever recorded.

Nearly 10,000 young salmon – or smolts – usu­ally leave the Frome in the spring but this year only around 4,300 were counted.

Poor num­bers of salmon from the 2015-16 spawn­ing sea­son has been ob­served in many rivers across Eng­land and Wales, sug­gest­ing it could be a na­tional, rather than a lo­cal, phe­nom­e­non.

Dr Ras­mus Lau­rid­sen, head of fish­eries re­search for GWCT, said: “The num­ber of young salmon leaving our rivers has a di­rect ef­fect on the num­ber of adults re­turn­ing to spawn.

“With adult num­bers al­ready at an all-time low, this is wor­ry­ing data for an iconic and eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant species.”

Ex­perts be­lieve that un­sea­son­ably warm weather in the early part of the win­ter in 2015-16, when the adult salmon were lay­ing their eggs, caused fewer fish to sur­vive.

As a re­sult of the low num­bers of smolts in 2017, it is ex­pected that fewer adults will re­turn to the Frome in 2018 and 2019, af­ter they have spent between 12 months and two years at sea.

Fall­ing num­bers of the fish are likely to cause sup­ply prob­lems and in­evitably push up prices.

Dr Lau­rid­sen added: “This is a stark re­minder of the im­por­tance of the fresh­wa­ter stage of the salmon life cy­cle and its po­ten­tial to af­fect stocks in sub­se­quent years.”

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