SCIENTISTS hoping to save the salmon industry on the Tweed are looking for sponsors to help fund a forthcoming study.

Salmon numbers on the world-famous river are at their lowest since records began.

In the space of less than a decade rod catches have gone from an all-time high of 23,000 to last year's 5,510.

And conservationists believe the loss of smolts on their way to the sea is a major factor.

A survey carried out in 2019 found that only 16 of the 45 transmitter-tagged smolts released in the Gala Water reached the North Sea.

The pilot project was aimed at estimating survival rates, identifying areas of high losses and establishing strategies to reduce the number of casualties.

The Tweed Foundation want to now carry out a second study this spring - and they are seeking sponsors for each of the 150 tagged smolts to be released.

A spokesman said: "With numbers of returning adult Salmon continuing to decline due to increasing marine mortality, we need to make sure as many smolts make it to the sea as possible by minimising losses as they pass down the river.

"It is only with hard evidence on the losses that take place and the causes of these losses that management can be improved and targeted to the best effect.

"The Tweed Foundation has been monitoring numbers of juvenile Salmon in the catchment since the early 1990s.

"Despite the recent decline in numbers of adult fish, juvenile stocks have remained stable, mainly because it only takes a relatively small number of spawning fish to replenish the system.

"Smolts are therefore the weakest part of the in-river life cycle and where there is the greatest potential for management."

As part of the forthcoming study anyone who sponsors a smolt will have access to regular updates on the progress of their fish via the foundation's tracking blog.

A single tag costs £275 and the foundation is suggesting a minimum donation of £25.

The spokesman added: "We will also be awarding a prize at the end of the smolt run for the fastest smolt to make it out of the estuary and into the sea, the start of their long migration to the feeding grounds."