News from the River Carron Research Project

Phase one of the River Carron Research Project has been completed and a paper, developed from all of data the project has generated is currently being developed for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The proposed title of the paper is "Investigating the recent historically high angling catches recorded on the River Carron" and has been co-authored by Matthew Curran, Bob Kindness, Andrew Duncan & Eric Verspoor.

Funding is currently being sought for phase two of the project, which will seek to use genetic analyses to provide more definitive evidence for whether the recover is natural or supported by stocking.

Until this funding becomes available, it has become necessary to close this page and move selected content to facebook -



River Carron Restoration Project report published, February 2015

The report collates and evaluates all of the data collected on the River Carron on Atlantic salmon stocks up to summer 2014 and presents preliminary analyses related to the effect of stocking on catches in the river and the reasons for historical declines in catches and recent historical highs.  Preliminary conclusions are drawn from the data in relation to this issue where the data permit.

The studies discussed in the report, in particular the genetic analysis of the fish stocks and the modelling of expected demographic outcomes based on existing understanding of salmon biology, are ongoing.  As more data becomes available over time, it is hoped that it will be possible to draw increasingly robust scientific conclusions about the state of the fish stocks on the River Carron and the role of stocking on the recovery of the river’s salmon stocks and in delivering recent historical record catches.

IBIS/ AST stocking conference - Glasgow, November 2013
In November 2013 Shaun, Bob and myself travelled to Glasgow to attend the two day conference “Boosting salmon numbers – is stocking the answer?” organised by the Atlantic Salmon Trust and IBIS. The aim of this conference was “To examine in depth the potential role of stocking and ranching for the restoration, sustainment and enhancement of salmon populations and fisheries”.

Over the course of the two days there were 19 presentations from 18 speakers including Eric Verspoor giving a presentation on the current position of the River Carron Restoration Project (you can view his full presentation here) and a second on the importance of genetics (presentation here). The presentation covered a range of subjects from offering reasons why a fishery might want to stock, the cost effectiveness of stocking to the issues surrounding the possibility of stocked fish to damage the genetic health of wild populations (you can view a transcript of the presentations here).
The discussion over the two days can be summarised into a few key points:

  1. Before beginning any restoration project be sure that you know what the problem is i.e. why there are no salmon.
  2. The project must have clearly defined objectives.
  3. Use the most appropriate method for restoring the fish population – don’t just use stocking because it’s been done before.
    1. An often used phrase over the two days was use “stocking is only one tool in the fisheries manager’s tool box”; as with any selection of tools you should always use the right one for the job at hand.
    2. Ask yourself whether the method you’ve picked will actually fix the identified problem.
  4. If stocking is picked as the way to go; be proportionate and don’t overstock (see of presentations for the potential damage that this can cause).
  5. And, always have a way of evaluating the restoration programme and don’t be afraid to change the adopted strategy if it’s not working.

You can find a more in-depth summary of the conference and it’s findings here.

Bob's River Report blog updates nearing completion
After a long delay caused by changes to staffing and the busy summer period; Bob's river report blog is now almost up-to-date with four entries and two associated photographs having been made in the last few days. Now only the 2013 season catch statistics need to be posted to complete the update and these will appear in the very near future.

The River Carron Project Team once again apologise for the delay but hope that you will enjoy reading and commenting upon the blog entries that are now available on the website.

NEW! Salmon stocking records mapped
Maps of stocking activity on the River Carron are now available on the downloads tab. The maps show all recorded stocking events using salmon fry from 1995 to 2012 and older salmon juveniles (parr or smolts) from 2000 to 2011. The majority of the stocking which has taken place on the River Carron has occurred since 1995.

The maps show how the stocking programme has varied from year to year. The majority of the stocking has taken place in areas of the catchment which are accessible to wild migratory salmon (i.e. below impassable obstructions). The centre of each stocking event has been marked by a dot, scaled to the number of fish released. Stocking will typically have occurred for approximately 300m upstream and downstream of each dot.

Most of the salmon fry have been released in the main channel of the Carron or larger tributaries. Many of the larger smolts or parr have been released in stillwaters such as Loch Dughaill or Loch Sghamhain.

March 2013
On 13 March a new batch (x200) of captive-reared salmon broodstock (of River Carron origin) were moved from rearing tanks to ponds at the aquaculture facility. These salmon (males and females) will grow to maturity in these ponds before being used to generate more fertilised eggs for stocking purposes.

February 2013 newsletter


See our latest newsletter (click here) for in-depth information on project progress.

New freshwater fisheries biologist
Pete Minting has taken over from Jonah Tosney as fisheries biologist. After two years as a dedicated biologist for Wester Ross Fisheries Trust (WRFT) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Jonah has secured a job with the Norfolk Rivers Trust. We thank him for his hard work and wish him all the best in his new post! Pete recently completed his PhD at the University of Sussex, having previously worked as a biologist for Ayrshire Rivers Trust from 2004-2008.


Pete Minting (centre) with Bob Kindness and Melanie Smith on 5th Dec 2012

New Rivers and Lochs Institute for the Highlands
The University of the Highlands and Islands has announced the opening of a new Rivers and Lochs Institute, a centre for supporting the sustainable management of Scotland's freshwater biodiversity. The Institute's first newsletter can be found here.

New Funding Package for the River Carron
A three year funding package has been secured by Inverness College, University of the


Highlands and Islands to support the development and research of the West Coast River

Carron salmon and sea-trout restoration project. A combined package of £300k over three

years is coming from Scottish Sea Farms (through the Heart of the Community Trust),

Scottish Salmon Company, three aquaculture feed companies (EWOS, Skretting and

BIOMAR), the River Carron Improvement Association (“RCIA”) and Inverness College UHI.

Shaun Macdonald, Convenor of the RCIA said:

"The regeneration of the River Carron has exceeded all our expectations for which we are

grateful to Inverness College and Bob Kindness. We welcome the co-operation and support of

the fish farming industry for continued research into solutions that we all seek: the

development of remedial measures to offset the uncertainties of salmonid marine survival

and the preservation of biodiversity in the River Carron."

John Rea, Production Manager for SSF's Scotland region commented:

“The determination of Inverness College and the RCIA in refusing to let this west coast river

die is exemplary. The expertise of Bob Kindness, supported by a collective willingness to "do

what is possible", has shown you can make choices which deliver healthy fish returns despite

unknowable marine risks to wild salmon. Much has still to be scientifically revealed - I hope

SSF's funding for the College and UHI can help break the barriers to making use of this

pioneering approach."

Henry Dalgety, Freshwater Manager at The Scottish Salmon Company, said:

“We are delighted to collaborate on and support this very important project. We have been

involved with the project for a number of years and operate in the area. It’s encouraging to

see a significant increase in the river’s stocks and we understand important lessons can be

learned from The River Carron Project which can be taken elsewhere.”

A statement from EWOS, BIOMAR and Skretting said ‘The feed companies are pleased to

support this project and believe it will demonstrate the potential of stock enhancement as a

way of improving wild salmonid populations.’

Salmon represent an important economic resource for the area, both through the attraction

of tourists to improved angling opportunities and the generation of local employment by

the fish farming industry.

In the past the River Carron supported significant salmon and sea trout populations, but

during the 1990s the declared rod catch collapsed, falling to a five year average in 2001 of

only 6 salmon and 12 sea trout. Working with the RCIA, Inverness College began a restocking

programme with the aim of restoring the salmon and sea trout populations of the river.

Under the management of Bob Kindness, brood stock, produced from eggs stripped from

wild fish caught in the river, were the basis for restoring fish populations. By 2004, the

declared annual salmon rod catch had recovered to 141 fish and has continued to increase,

averaging over 250 salmon a season. In 2010 a record rod catch of 419 fish was recorded.

Sea trout catches have also recovered significantly, reaching almost 200 in each of the last 3


There is now a significant opportunity to investigate fully the evidence for how stocking can

be used for restoration and the extent to which the approach on the Carron may be

applicable on other rivers. The research will use a number of methods to test these key

questions, including genetics, electrofishing and detailed assessment of the biodiversity of

the Carron catchment.

John Spencer, Principal & Chief Executive Inverness College UHI said “This is a significant

development for the River Carron project, enabling the College to enhance research activity

in this area and grow our research as a partner in the University of the Highlands and

Islands. We are pleased to continue our long standing collaboration with the River Carron

Improvement Association and welcome the involvement of the fish farming and feed

industries. The collaborative nature of this funding recognises the need to build on the

considerable achievements and commitment of staff to the project, and we look forward to

developing this over the next three years.”

For more information, contact:

Kat MacMillan, Halogen Communications, (T) 0131 202 0120 (F) 0131 225 3757


Dr Melanie Smith, Head of Research Development, Inverness College UHI

(T) 01463 273080

River Carron Restoration Project news from, July 2012

Solving fisheries problems in Wester Ross: to stock or not to stock?, Summary from RAFT workshop held at Poolewe Village Hall, 28th May 2010
River reborn as nature gets a helping hand, The Scotsman, 15th February 2008
Fishing Lines: Act of Kindness rescues salmon stocks in the West Highlands, The Independent, 13th January 2008
Dramatic Recovery for Salmon in River Carron, The Herald, 12th December 2006 
Born to be wild, The Guardian, 22nd September 2004