A project to preserve at-risk Atlantic salmon in the River Spey is currently underway as The Atlantic Salmon Trust embarks on phase two of the Moray Firth Tracking project, supported by a charitable partnership with The Macallan.
Existing solely for the protection of wild salmon and sea trout, The Atlantic Salmon Trust aim to create a positive future for these at-risk species; using scientific research to understand their decline and using the generous donations from supporters such as The Macallan to put evidence-based solutions into practice. Wild Atlantic salmon are an iconic species with a remarkable history. They are uniquely placed to inform us of the quality of our waters and form an incredibly important part of the ecosystem of Scottish rivers.
The River Spey is home to the largest Atlantic salmon population in Scotland, keystone species which is in sharp decline as a result of habitat destruction and overfishing. Winding through the North East of Scotland, almost two miles of the river flow through The Macallan Estate, birthplace of every bottle of The Macallan’s exceptional single-malt whisky since 1824.
As a guardian of the River Spey, one of the last remaining sanctuaries for Atlantic salmon, The Macallan is supporting The Atlantic Salmon Trust in its vital conservation work spanning a number of research activities, as well as supporting the innovative Moray Firth Tracking project.
Now entering its second phase, the project will examine why Atlantic salmon are dying in their oceanic migration. Mark Bilsby, CEO of The Atlantic Salmon Trust, said: “Out of every 100 salmon that leave Scottish rivers for the sea, less than 5 return, representing a loss of nearly 70% of the population in the last 25 years. – it is more important than ever that we understand the reasons behind this, and The Macallan’s support provides a strong platform, ensuring that we can continue to work on key research projects during challenging times.” Beginning in Ballindalloch, just outside The Macallan Estate, the initiative will see more than 800 fish fitted with acoustic tags which emit a ‘ping’ containing a unique ID code. The noise is detected by hydrophone received which are placed at regular intervals to track salmon heading out to sea throughout their journey. The Moray Firth Tracking Project is designed to find out what is happening to Atlantic salmon on this journey, so that they can take steps to inform river managers and policymakers on how best to implement practical management solutions to better protect their wild fish stocks.
In the 1980s, approximately ten million salmon lived and thrived in the Atlantic, but today that number is expected to have dwindled to as low as two million If the trend continues, it is feared that Atlantic Salmon could become an endangered species in 10 years’ time, and possibly lost altogether by 2050. As a key-stone species, Atlantic salmon have an important impact on the ecosystems they inhabit, without which, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist.
Robert Mitchell, Ghillie at The Macallan Estate, said: “As proud custodians of The River Spey, everyone who works at The Macallan Estate is passionate about preserving the wildlife which lives here. There are many projects underway to protect the biodiversity and habitats in our grounds, from removing old building structures to reshaping the riverbank and improving the temperature of the water.
“The River Spey has been a source of inspiration for The Macallan since our early days of whisky making nearly 200 years ago, and protecting this sanctuary is very important to us. The conservation work being undertaken by the Atlantic Salmon Trust is vital in protecting the species, and our partnership is based on a shared spirit of sustainability and community as together we care for the extraordinary river and its natural surroundings.”
Last year, The Macallan unveiled Edition No. 6, a limited-edition single malt whisky inspired the natural wonders of The Macallan Estate and the River Spey, to celebrate their partnership with The Atlantic Salmon Trust. The excellent single malt whisky was crafted by The Macallan Whisky Maker Steven Bremner, who used a combination of five American and European oak sherry seasoned casks to capture various elements of the river and The Macallan Estate.
The Macallan was recently awarded the Positive Luxury Butterfly Mark for its commitment to protecting the biodiversity and habitats in its Easter Elchies Estate, marine conservation, and a number of other sustainable initiatives, including the design of its new distillery home, which draws over 80% of its energy from renewable sources and boasts one of Europe’s largest green roofs.
To find out more about The Atlantic Salmon Trust and their work, visit: atlanticsalmontrust.org/