Activities

Monitoring of Wind Farm and Other Developments

The Findhorn DSFB is regularly consulted on proposed developments that might affect the river, its tributaries or fish stocks. Recent years have seen numerous proposed wind farms in the Findhorn catchment. The Board has reviewed these proposed developments and commented on their potential impacts on the river and the fish. In some cases, Board suggestions for mitigation of impacts have been incorporated into developments. As individuals, Board members have a wide variety of opinions on the virtues of wind farms, but as a Board, restrict their comments to whether the proposed development would adversely affect the river or the fish. The Board also monitors developments such as Flood Alleviation Schemes, forestry roads, micro-hydro schemes, etc.

Hatchery

The Board has run a salmon hatchery on the Lethen Estate for a number of years and a second hatchery at Dalmigarry, run by the estate, was also added in the late 1990s. The combined capacity was around 400,000 eggs.

With an increasing number of behavioural and genetic studies showing that the Atlantic salmon is structured into multiple, distinct breeding populations. The evidence shows that salmon in different river systems belong to different breeding populations and stocks in all but the smallest rivers can generally be expected to contain many breeding populations which are reproductively and genetically distinct.  In practical terms the Findhorn will have a salmon population that is distinct from that of other Scottish Rivers and within the Findhorn it is highly likely that the major tributaries such as the Dorback, Divie, Mazeran, etc one will hold distinct sub-populations. Indeed tissue sample collected from the salmon within these tributaries and analysed through the FASMOP project provided some evidence that genetic structuring was present within the Findhorn.

A review of  recent research presented at a  two day workshop “Boosting salmon numbers: is stocking the answer or the problem?”  in Glasgow,  organised by AST and IBIS  indicated that rivers with a good natural population stock should avoid introducing hatchery reared fish due to disruption of stock structure and generally poorer survival exhibited by hatchery reared fish. In addition recent research into the return rates of salmon from the hatchery programme to the rod fishery on the River Spey showing very low returns to the river or the angler.

Juvenile surveys have, in general, indicated a good distribution of juvenile salmon throughout the river and its tributaries,  adult catches vary from year to year but have generally been good in recent years. So given that salmon stocks are in good health within the river and after considering this new evidence relating to hatchery performance the Findhorn Board reviewed its hatchery operations in 2013 and decided to suspend hatchery operations from 2014 onwards.

Changes in the estate operations at Dalmigarry have led to the closure of this hatchery while the Lethen hatchery infrastructure will be maintained in case of an unforseen loss in stock in the future.

Prevention of Poaching

As a result of several years of effective bailiffing, poaching on the Findhorn is now fairly minimal. Patrolling continues, to maintain this state of affairs. To report suspected poachers, contact Head Bailiff Sean McLean (07920 483081) or call 101 to report a wildlife crime to the Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Unit.

Diseased and Damaged Fish

Occasionally anglers report seeing diseased or damaged fish. The Board encourages them to report this to the Board (Head Bailiff Sean McLean 07920 483081) or to the Fisheries Trust (Robert Laughton, 07887 535986). If at all possible, take a photo of the fish and e-mail it to the Board/Trust. Early response to these reports can help to contain any potential problems.

Juvenile Surveys

The Findhorn DSFB commissions regular electro fishing surveys to monitor fish populations, both numbers of fish and distribution of different age classes. Surveys have been conducted from 1997-2011 with the exception of two years of poor weather and high river flows. In 2010, a small tissuesample from juvenile salmon at a range of sites throughout the catchment was also obtained and submitted to the FASMOP project for determining sub-population structure within the river.

In general the distribution of salmon in the Findhorn catchment is excellent, with most of the tributaries examined producing juveniles and mean overall densities for each age class close to the long term average. This may reflect better runs of adult salmon during the last few seasons coupled with an increase in the catch and release rate allowing more spawing females. However, many other factors will also be important.

Trout fry distribution is more limited with burns such as the Anaboard and Little Berry within the Dorback and Divie catchment still being the most productive areas. The lack of trout is curious but the Findhorn is not renowned for its sea trout fishery indicating that runs into the river may low. Similarly, stocks of other native fish such as lampreys and sticklebacks are fairly low.

Juvenile survey reports are available to download,

Findhorn2010 JS Report,  Findhorn2008 JS Report, Findhorn2007 JS Report

 

The next electrofishing survey will be conducting in summer 2014 beginning in August. Helpers are also welcome and anyone wishing to join the effort can contact Bob Laughton on 01309 611220 or 07887 535986.