FISHERIES experts are calling for salmon conservation to be treated as a national priority as the species approaches “crisis point”.

Conservationists will meet politicians at the Scottish Parliament today to discuss what can be done to reverse the trend. The event will include a roundtable discussion and evening reception, sponsored by Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

Dr Alan Wells, chief executive of Fisheries Management Scotland, said: “Salmon catches in Scotland have reached the lowest levels ever recorded and nature is sending us urgent signals about what could happen next.

“Official catch figures for recent years confirm this iconic species is now approaching crisis point.

“Some of the factors impacting on wild salmon stocks may be beyond human control but Scotland’s Government and regulatory authorities have a historic opportunity to do everything in their power to safeguard the species in those areas where they can make a difference.

“Put simply, salmon conservation must become a national priority.”

Karen Ramoo, policy adviser at landowner and rural business owner organisation Scottish Land and Estates, said: “The environment and the rural economy are at risk if we do not act now to tackle declining salmon numbers.

“We must aspire to maintain and improve our rivers and lochs to provide good breeding stock.

“Mechanisms to conserve these vulnerable stocks and encourage sustainable economic growth must be encouraged and it is imperative that the right balance is struck between conservation and the interests of those whose livelihood relies on fishing for salmon.”

The Scottish Government said it will do all it can to safeguard the future of the species and will be involved in a project to track the migration of smolt – young salmon – on the west coast of Scotland.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “It is fitting that this event is taking place at the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

“I am pleased also to announce £750,000 of funding for an innovative project between the Scottish Government, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland to work in partnership to track smolt migration on the west coast of Scotland.”