Nature Champions: Atlantic salmon


Atlantic salmon are our largest freshwater fish, growing to 1.6m in length. They breed in freshwater but spend most of their lives feeding at sea, returning at maturity to spawn in the river of their birth. 

They are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, and have declined markedly in many rivers, particularly on the west coast of Scotland. 

Thirteen rivers, including the Tweed are designated as Special Areas of Conservation, for Atlantic salmon. Other biodiversity features, such as pearl mussels, benefit from conservation measures.

Action Needed

  • Support the development and implementation of the Salmon Conservation Strategy
  • Support measures to reduce impact of aquaculture on wild salmon, in particular actions to ensure salmon are adequately protected in a reformed regulatory framework. 
  • Support the removal of migration barriers in rivers
  • Support enhanced regulation to reduce nutrient pollution 
  • Support biodiversity and climate actions, including tree planting along river corridors


  • The Scottish Government has identified 12 high level pressures impacting salmon in Scotland, which include aquaculture (through sea lice and escapes), barriers to migration, habitat loss along rivers, predation, pollution, and rising river temperatures. 
  • To improve the conservation status of salmon, all recognised pressures must be addressed simultaneously. To date, most attention has focused on the impacts of aquaculture. In 2020, the Salmon Conservation Strategy steering group was established to develop a strategy to address all threats to Atlantic salmon.

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