Significant drop in Atlantic salmon return in Dorset River report

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THE NUMBER of wild adult Atlantic salmon returning to the River Frome in Dorset in 2021 is down nearly 20% from its 10-year average.

The decline echoes reports from Scotland and Norway where annual catches of salmon in 2021 were the lowest on record – a clear message that 2021 has been a very bad year for the return of Atlantic salmon.

The widespread reporting of declining adult salmon returns further underscores the growing need for targeted action to protect this iconic species.

Juvenile Atlantic smolts migrating out to sea from the Frome River in 2021 were also 30% below the 10-year average, so expectations for adult returns from this cohort of smolts are low.

This week, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) released its 2021 Fisheries Research Review.

Based at the Salmon and Trout Research Center at East Stoke near Wareham on the River Frome in Dorset, the GWCT Fisheries team is responsible for one of the longest running salmon monitoring projects in the UK .

The Frome River is an indexed river for salmon and provides data on marine survival rates of Atlantic salmon to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). ICES uses data from the Frome River, along with other North Atlantic salmon data, to provide scientific advice on offshore harvesting.

There are, however, more positive signs from recent monitoring, as GWCT Fisheries Research Manager Rasmus Lauridsen explains: “While we had a disappointing run of adult salmon in 2021, we encountered a good number of salmon parr during our annual parr tagging campaign in September, indicating excellent recruitment of salmon that spawned in 2020. We therefore expect a strong migration of salmon smolts in 2022.”

As a founding member of the Missing Salmon Alliance (MSA), the GWCT Fisheries Research Review also reports on the evolving framework of likely MSA suspects.

The framework develops new ways to predict the future survival of salmon at sea using indicators of ecosystem health and life history knowledge to improve decision-making tools for management some salmon.

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