SALMON numbers have hit rock bottom in the Tweed and other rivers across Scotland, according to the latest Government figures.

Rod catches on the river Tweed last year are at their lowest level ever recorded - only 5,510.

And when compared to the 2010 figure of 22,718 the dramatic drop hits home for conservation experts.

Fay Hieatt from the Tweed Foundation told us: “The Tweed has always been known for big catches but in 2014 a trend of decline began with catches dropping by around a thousand each year.

“Local weather conditions and water height are a constant factor is the rise and fall of salmon numbers.

"However, the decrease we have seen in recent years is due to something more.

“Fishing efforts have decreased as anglers are reducing the length of their visits to the Tweed.

"The level and stability of the salmon returning is an issue for anglers planning to visit the Borders.

“We are joining with other bodies to undertake important studies of factors affecting salmon numbers - these include predation levels across three of Scotland’s largest rivers, and of smolt movements in order to try and help as many as possible make it out to sea.

“But more needs to be done to urgently address this issue at a national level.

"It is extremely important that the effect on local rural economies is recognised. Angling tourism is vitally important to rural economies and so is saving the iconic species for our future generations.

"2019 being the International Year of Salmon provides a great opportunity to highlight the decline in salmon fishing on the Tweed."

The latest economic report, conducted independently by SQW in 2015, found that angling was worth £24 million to the Border economy.

Earlier this week, local MSP Rachel Hamilton invited Mairi Gougeon, the Minister for Rural Affairs, to meet with her to discuss the rapid decline of salmon stocks.

Ms Hamilton said: “Our rivers are our greatest asset, especially the River Tweed in the Borders.

"It simply cannot continue that rod catches fall year on year.

“I look forward to meeting with Mairi Gougeon to discuss how we can work constructively to ensure we don’t see this decline in salmon fishing continue.

“I am hoping that with the advice and information provided to me by various rural stakeholders, I can persuade the Minister to revisit the Wild Fisheries Review.

“I want to see angling prosper so that the next generation can have opportunities to contribute to our fantastic Borders rural economy."

The release of the official catch statistics this week shows that Scottish salmon levels have reached a crisis point, with the lowest levels since records began in 1952.

The total reported rod catch across the whole of Scotland was just 37,196 in 2018.

A 27 percent decrease on the previous year’s total of 50,988.

Environmental change, and a range of human impacts across the Northern Hemisphere are believed to be placing salmon at risk.

Fisheries Management Scotland have called for conservation to become a national priority.

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland, said: “Salmon catches in Scotland have reached the lowest levels ever recorded.

“Figures for 2018, taken together with those of recent years, confirm this iconic species is now approaching crisis point.

“Some of the factors impacting on wild salmon stocks may be beyond human control. But Scotland’s Government and regulatory authorities now have a historic opportunity to do everything in their power to safeguard the species in those areas where they can make a difference.

“Salmon conservation must become a national priority in what is the International Year of the Salmon.

“We are calling on all regulatory authorities to urgently place a renewed emphasis on the crucial importance of salmon conservation.

“There are many examples where positive interventions have already helped, but more must be done.

“This will require Scottish Government and agencies to coordinate their efforts to protect salmon in a way that is not happening currently.”