FUNDING of about £700,000 to tackle a huge decline in Scottish wild salmon stocks has been announced by the Scottish Government.

Ministers said survival rates for salmon at sea have fallen to five per cent and the cash will be spent on research and fisheries management to help safeguard stocks in the future.

Among the potential factors identified as contributing to the problem were predation, poaching, salmon farming and pollution. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The decline in wild salmon numbers is due to a range of complex factors and is of great concern – we must do all we can to safeguard the future of this iconic species.

“The survival rate of salmon during their marine phase has fallen from around 25 per cent to five per cent over the last 40 years and while the exact causes of this dramatic loss are unclear, we must do what we can to protect salmon numbers.

“This investment will accelerate and enhance joint work to try to quantify and mitigate a wide-ranging list of potential pressures on Scottish salmon stocks, such as forestry, hydro, barriers to migration, predation, illegal poaching, salmon farming, invasive non-native species, inshore and offshore developments and diffuse pollution.

“No single one of these, tackled alone, will secure the recovery of our wild salmon stocks.”

A national programme of sampling to count juvenile salmon numbers in rivers before they head to sea and when they return is among the research to be supported by £500,000.

Some £200,000 is on offer for district salmon fishery boards to merge or set up new boards to cut costs and improve effectiveness of fisheries management. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s fishing group welcomed the funding and said: “We hope the investment will be targeted at declining salmon rather than all being swallowed up in streamlining governance processes. Conservation measures on rivers were the first steps taken by Government, so tackling the many other factors identified in the announcement is now overdue.”

The group said: “The decisions of the Scottish Government around fish farm expansion which are being reviewed at Holyrood will be an indicator as to the level of Government commitment to addressing wild salmon declines on the west coast.”

Earlier this week, Holyrood’s Environment Committee said it was “deeply concerned” about the environmental impact of the salmon farming industry.

In a report, it warned that the aquaculture industry’s planned expansion from 163,000 tonnes in 2016 to 300,000-400,000 tonnes by 2030 could cause “irrecoverable damage to the environment” if existing issues were not tackled.