A £50,000 grant will support a first-of-its-kind study working to explain the plight of Scotland’s iconic wild salmon.
The Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST) will use the money – provided by The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation – to support its Moray Firth tracking programme.
Its conservation project is the largest of its kind in Europe and is investigating what is happening to salmon on their journey to sea, amidst reports of dwindling numbers of fish.
Already 800 young salmon smolts have already been tagged as they migrate downstream from the headwaters of seven rivers around the Moray Firth, including the Spey, so their progress can be tracked.
And the trust hopes the study’s findings will help to ensure salmon and trout numbers become naturally sustainable once more.
The work is being backed by the foundation, by whose headquarters the river Spey runs at Fochabers.
It was established in 1981 by brothers Gordon and Ian Baxter together with Gordon’s wife, Ena to allow the Baxter family to give something back to the people who had helped lay the foundations of their successful family enterprise, Baxters.
Since 2013, it has awarded over £1.25 million to charities and community organisations working to benefit the north-east and the Highlands and Islands.
Foundation manager Kay Jackson welcomed Mark Bilsby, the trust’s chief executive officer, to the banks of the river Spey for an update on progress.
Mrs Jackson said: “This is one of seven rivers being monitored as part of a three-year tagging and tracking project.
“It is designed to uncover the secrets of the missing salmon and will hopefully mean steps can be taken to halt the decline of this iconic species.
“Gordon Baxter was an avid angler – particularly on the Spey, which flows 120 yards from the company’s Speyside factories.
“He would spend long hours fishing and even clinched business deals on the banks of the river.
“This is a hugely important and valuable piece of work and one we know Mr Gordon would have supported wholeheartedly.”
Mr Bilsby added: “The problems that salmon face are manifold and we are deeply concerned that if we don’t understand what is happening to them then there is a real threat that we will lose them for future generations.”
“The exceptionally welcome support by The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation will enable us to really understand what is going on.”
Mr Bilsby said he hoped the findings of the study would also enable the trust to support the local community to “better manage the salmon and the waters they live in”.
For further information about the Atlantic Salmon Trust, visit www.atlanticsalmontrust.org.