SSE taking the leap in salmon conservation

Spawning salmon will have access to part of the River Tay catchment for the first time in over 60 years, following a landmark agreement between SSE, the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board’s (TDSFB) and SEPA to allow river water to flow again. 

A ten mile stretch of the River Garry, which has been dry since the mid 1950s, will run again with water  promising major benefits for adult salmon spawning and juvenile production.

The announcement was made today [Jan 16]  by Jim Smith, SSE’s Managing Director of Generation, as he presided over the opening of the salmon fishing season at Meikleour, near Perth.  SSE, TDSFB and SEPA have been working closely together to look at how they could further support salmon conservation in the area as part of SSE’s approach to its environmental responsibilities.

Jim Smith said that although the move would result in some hydro revenue loss for SSE it had been recognised that the River Garry was a special case and the environmental benefits would outweigh any economic disadvantage. He  said: “Ever since its inception as the Hydro Board in 1943, SSE has been charged with the responsibility of managing the waters carefully where we operate our hydro assets. 

“Our guiding philosophy is to work with all parties to balance the nation’s need for power with our environmental responsibilities. We recognise this stretch of the River Garry as a special case for water restoration. Although it will result in a loss of potential hydro energy for SSE we are delighted to play our part in restoring water flow and allowing salmon back to the upper Garry.”

Bill Jack, chairman of the TDSFB, added: “This most welcome news is a milestone in salmon conservation. Some ten miles of the main river and seven miles of tributary will once again be capable of producing salmon. We estimate that this is likely to produce an additional 1,500 adult, predominantly spring, salmon returning to the river annually. It is difficult to envisage any other single project that would benefit salmon in the Tay system as much as this will. We are very pleased to have been able to work with SSE and SEPA to a successful conclusion.”

SSE engineers have already made an initial breach at the Struan Weir to begin this process of restoring river flow to the River Garry, north of Blair Atholl, with the aim of allowing migrating salmon to return to spawn here over coming years. Until now the weir had been in place to prevent salmon becoming stranded in the upper reaches of the river system. 

The ceremony to mark the beginning of the new salmon season was well attended by anglers with the traditional blessing (with a bottle of Glenturret whisky) of the boat and river ceremony performed by Jim Smith who also took the honour of the first fly cast to kick off the new season. 

He added: “It’s a great personal honour and for SSE to preside over today’s ceremony. We are delighted to play our part in helping restore salmon to this part of Scotland and we will work hard with all parties to monitor their progress.” 

Click here for more information on SSE’s sustainability strategy.