Scottish Salmon

Wild salmon, caught by rod, has registered the third lowest numbers on record.

image credit Noel Donaldson

The stats are from 2020 and were published on 26th of May 2021, Salmon Fishery Statistics 2020

Of the 45,366 wild fish reported as caught in the rod fishery, 42,348 were subsequently released and 3,018 retained. 

Salmon Fishery Statistics 2020

Since 2016 salmon caught in coastal waters has been prohibited.

the number of Atlantic salmon returning to Scottish coastal waters has declined over the last 50 years. This is not associated with a reduction in salmon leaving rivers and would appear to be driven by increased at-sea mortality.

Marine Scotland

In August 2020  an escape of almost 49,000 farmed Atlantic salmon was reported by the operator of a marine farm. This affected the marine environment in the Firth of Clyde.

The rod catch of sea trout is also the third lowest on record.

Of the 13,313 sea trout reported caught in the rod fishery, 11,748 were subsequently released and 1,565 retained.

Sea Trout Fishery Statistics2020

Finnock are  sea trout which have spent less than a year at sea.

The public health restrictions imposed due to the Covid19 pandemic have had an impact on the fishery sector.

Farmed Salmon

The most recent statistics for farmed salmon relate to production in 2019.

Annual production of salmon (tonnes) during 1999-2019 and projected production in 2020

The total production of Atlantic salmon during 2019 was 203,881 tonnes, an increase of 47,856 tonnes (30.7%) on the 2018 total and the highest ever level of production recorded in Scotland.

Scottish Fish Farm Production Survey 2019

The number of people employed in the farmed salmon sector increased. There are also other species which are farmed – rainbow trout, brown/sea trout and halibut. Cleaner fish which are used to limit parasites in farmed fish also increased: lumpsucker and wrasse .

Scottish salmon is the largest UK food export by value.

The number of escapes from fish farms and the treatment of farmed fish continues to be controversial.

This is a record of the escape of 48,834 Atlantic farmed salmon on 20th of August 2020.

If you click on the above link to the record of escapes there is a lack of data when it comes to number of fish lost in most accounts.

There is not only a problem with escapes from fish farms but also the waste generated by the farms which drops down onto the sea bed.


In February 2021 the Scottish Government tightened up its licensing regulations on the shooting of seals mostly because killing them would have seriously affected sales of farmed salmon to the USA.

Total number of seals killed under all licences, 2015-2019

it is an offence to kill or injure a seal except under licence or to alleviate suffering

Seal Licensing

This is the data so far for Seals Killed in Scotland Under License 2020

TotalEast CoastMoray FirthOrkney & NorthShetlandSouth WestWestern IslesWest Coast
Grey Seals471410105107
Common( Harbour) Seals 277317
Seals Killed in Scotland Under License 2020

These are reported killings under license in 2020.

Image credit Noel Donaldson

The farmed salmon industry is big businesses but record keeping doesn’t appear to be one of its strong points if the data related to escapes is anything to go by. It does support jobs in areas where often employment is hard to come by but it has a responsibility to conduct its business to much higher standards than it currently does, both environmentally and with the welfare of the fish it farms and the other wildlife that shares the location of its facilities – that includes not just seals but birds and other wildlife.

With sales affected by Brexit and the need to access international markets farmed salmon will need to address those concerns.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. Oh Woe is Me!

    Scottish salmon could be at risk of becoming an endangered species if their decline continues, a new study has warned. … And over the past 25 years, there has been a decline of almost 70% in the number of Atlantic salmon returning to our rivers.

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