Scallop Shells Being Used To Improve River Bladnoch Water Quality

A groundbreaking project using scallop shells to improve the water quality of a major river in the south of Scotland is being funded by salmon farmers.

Galloway Fisheries Trust has received £22,700 from Salmon Scotland’s wild fisheries fund to tackle high acidity levels threatening fish numbers on the River Bladnoch.
The project, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, is inspired by successful US studies using clam shells.

Scallop shells will be added directly into watercourses and as crushed shells on roads near the Bladnoch, acting as a buffering agent to neutralise acidic conditions.

The shells contain calcium carbonate, which helps restore pH balance and provides essential minerals for aquatic life, promoting a healthier river ecosystem.
Galloway Fisheries Trust plans to use 700 tonnes of waste scallop shells from a local seafood processor.

More than 210 tonnes will be introduced in two burns, where they will break down over time.

Another 490 tonnes will be crushed and spread on forestry roads and tracks to address acid flushes during floods, with vehicular traffic aiding in their gradual breakdown.

Almost £1400,000 been granted to organisations across the country this year from the fund to help save iconic wild salmon and sea trout.

The fund is part of a £1.5 million commitment from Scotland’s salmon farmers to support the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of wild fish numbers.
Wild salmon and sea trout populations throughout the UK have been in decline for decades – particularly because of habitat loss and rising river and sea temperatures.

These fish now have a marine survival rate of just one-to-five per cent, compared to around 25 per cent only three decades ago.

The Scottish Government has identified other pressures facing wild salmon, including non-native plants, predation by fish, birds and seals, and obstacles to fish passage including dams and weirs.

Salmon farming companies, which only operate on the west coast, Orkney and Shetland, launched the fund to play their part finding solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.
Previously called the ‘wild salmonid fund’, more than £335,000 has already been invested since 2021.

The fund is co-ordinated by fishery manager Jon Gibb, who is based in Fort William and has championed a constructive relationship between the farm-raised salmon sector and fisheries and angling groups.

The other six projects awarded funds are:
• Otter Ferry Seafish – £49,404 to develop a living salmon gene bank to restock rivers in Argyll. The project is a partnership with Argyll Fisheries Trust and the River Ruel Improvement Association.
• Ayrshire Rivers Trust – £17,026 to undertake a restoration project that will aim to address riverbank erosion at the Mauchline Burn.
• River Ruel Improvement Association – £10,000 to tackle erosion on the river in South Argyll, by improving the habitat through tree planting and fencing.
• River Eachaig Fishery Syndicate – £24,376 for habitat improvements in Argyll, including riverbank strengthening, fencing, rhododendron control, and flood damage repairs.
• Uig Lodge Lettings – £10,000 for improvements to the Fhorsa River on the Isle of Lewis, focusing on enhancing spawning areas, re-shaping channels, clearing vegetation, and helping salmon move more easily.
• Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) – £6,305 for fishing surveying, analysis, and spawning bed improvements on the Carloway River on the Isle of Lewis.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:
“Wild salmon is one of Scotland’s most iconic species, but there has been a decades-long decline on the east and west coasts of Scotland due to climate change and habitat destruction.
“Scotland’s salmon farmers are determined to find solutions, engaging constructively with the wild fish sector and taking meaningful action to save wild salmon.
“We actively contribute to reversing this decline by supporting community-led projects to restore our rivers and lochs, making a positive global impact.
“Through the extraordinary success story of farm-raised salmon, we have developed world-leading expertise in hatching and rearing salmon that thrive at sea.
“Our members not only fund projects but also share their expertise to help restock wild fisheries, contributing to reversing the decline in wild salmon numbers.”
Jon Gibb, co-ordinator of the Salmon Scotland wild fisheries fund, said:
“The wild fisheries fund provides a rare and exceptional opportunity for rural and coastal communities to access vital funds aimed at improving their local rivers and lochs.
“In 2023, wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland were officially classified as an endangered species.
“It’s fantastic to support a variety of innovative projects dedicated to conserving and enhancing habitat, particularly for species facing extinction in certain areas.
“Wild salmon are currently facing a deep and dire crisis, and the aquaculture sector can play a crucial role in reducing their decline.”
Jamie Ribbons, head biologist at the Galloway Fisheries Trust, said:
“It is well-documented that wild salmon are struggling throughout their range at the moment.
“It is important to ensure their freshwater habitats are in the best condition possible, but in Galloway we have significant problems with acidification in the headwaters of many rivers.
“The funding being provided by the wild fisheries fund means that we can deliver an exciting and novel project using waste scallop shells to improve water quality in the upper River Bladnoch making it more suitable to support wild fish.
“Scallop shells contain calcium carbonate, which can help to restore pH balance in the water and provide essential minerals for aquatic life, promoting a healthier ecosystem within the river by improving water quality and supporting biodiversity.”