Approximately 60 years syne, aroon 40% o salmon smolts that went tae sea, wid return tae the River Dee in Aibeirdeenshire as adults. According tae Sandy Bremner, the Chair o the River Dee Trust, that figure is noo sits at 2-3%, an the survival rate for maist ither Scottish rivers is jist as bad.

The River Dee Trust, a registered charity set up in 1998, is wirkin alongside the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, tae try an understand fit’s happening tae fish in the river. Wi salmon an sea trout in decline, the Trust is looking towards the North Sea an Atlantic, faar salmon dae maist o their feeding an growing.  

The River Dee in its Upper Course near Crathie.

The warmin o the seas, salmon’s predators, an the number o parasites produced by west coast fish farms, are aa being considered by the Trust, as playing a role in the dwindling numbers o fish in the river. The Dee itself presents challenges, een o these being a lack o tree cover in its upper reaches. Areas o shade are needed tae prevent river temperatures fae becoming too high.

Smaller fish are particularly vulnerable tae thermal stress and in response tae this, the Trust his been planting trees on the banks o the Dee’s many tributaries. They’ve set an ambitious target o planting one million trees afore 2035 – cooperating wi local landowners an organising tree planting pilot schemes, including on the Balmoral Estate.  

The Trust his also been putting pairts o fallen trees intae the Dee’s tributaries, wi the aim o creating fast and slow areas in the river. Sandy explains that this encourages mair fish tae spawn, while also creating areas for them tae hide fae predators.   

Sandy Bremner has been Chair o the River Dee Trust since 2019.

Sandy an his team also wirked wi the River Dee Catchment Partnership tae restore a stretch o the Beltie Burn, near the village o Torphins, tae its mair natural course. This project has created areas for spawning an flood management, as weel as encouraging mair birds tae return tae the area.   

These are aa critical projects in counteracting the decline in key species o fish in the Dee but funding is also needed tae support the Trust. Sandy says that spreading the word an creating an enthusiasm for the river is a crucial pairt o the Trusts aims.

With that focus, the Trust has recruited an Education Officer to wirk in the community, an continues to hold fund-raisin events like the recent ‘Fish Dee 24’ tae raise funds.  That event involved 27 anglers fishing for 24 hours an raised aroon £16,000. Tae fin oot mair aboot the Trust ye can visit www.riverdeetrust.org.uk or email them at info@riverdee.org.

Trees planted at just one of the Baddoch Burn, just one of the Dee’s many tributaries.

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