Galloway Fisheries Trust Logo

Galloway Fisheries Trust

Fisheries House, Station Industrial Estate, Newton Stewart, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. DG8 6ND
Telephone: 01671 403011 · Fax: 01671 402248 · Scottish Registered Charity No. SC020751

Looking downstream on the River Cree

Brown Trout

Looking upstream on the River Bladnoch

Felling of commercial forestry in Galloway Forest Park

Looking upstream on the River Luce

North American Signal Crayfish

The sandy beach at Loch Grannoch

Belted Galloway Cattle, or 'Belties'

Fly fishing on the River Cree

Murray's Monument

A small upland burn

A stoneloach

The High Cree, looking towards Cairnsmore of Fleet

A small waterfall on the Buchan Burn

A salmon from the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee

Celtic Sea Trout Project (CSTP)

The Celtic Sea Trout Project is a ground-breaking, €2 million, multi-agency partnership investigation into the sea trout stocks and their associated fisheries of the many rivers entering the Irish Sea. It is largely funded by the EU Interreg 4A Ireland Wales Programme with additional support from government agencies, voluntary bodies and private fishery interests in Southwest Scotland, Northwest England, Wales, Ireland (east and south coasts) Ireland and the Isle of Man.

The active fieldwork programme will take place over three years from early 2010.

GFT are co-ordinating the project on three Galloway rivers (Luce, Cree and Water of Fleet) and assisting ELIA on the Border Esk.

General Background

Celtic Sea Trout Project logoSea trout and brown trout are different forms of the single biological species Salmo trutta L. The brown trout spends its entire life in freshwater while the sea trout spends its juvenile life in freshwater and its adult life in the sea; only returning to freshwater to spawn. Within any river system, variable proportions of the juvenile trout may become sea trout in any year depending on the local environment. Generally speaking, it is believed that migration by trout to the sea is associated with the growing conditions they experience in freshwater. Sea migration is a risky business for trout, exposing them to predation and energy costs; however these appear to be offset by favourable growing conditions in the sea.

Photograph of a lovely sea trout from the Luce

A lovely sea trout from the Luce

Thus, the sea trout requires suitable environmental conditions in both the freshwater, estuarine and marine environments in order to complete its complex and variable life history. Our current understanding suggests that the distribution, abundance and composition of our sea trout stocks are sensitive to poorly understood changes in the environments in which they live. These life history requirements and their widespread distribution throughout much of Europe make them a unique and potentially valuable indicator of environmental change and the quality of the aquatic environment in and around the Irish Sea.

The sea trout supports and sustains important and valuable recreational (rod) and commercial (net) fisheries. Many of these fisheries are showing a decline in the numbers and size of the sea trout captured but the causes of the downward trend are not well understood.

The Project

The CSTP will address the following key questions:

  • What happens to sea trout after they have migrated to sea and how are the various stocks structured and interlinked?
  • What is their marine ecology in terms of their feeding behaviour, diet and life history variation?
  • What environmental and other pressures are they exposed to?
  • How do their life histories respond to environmental variation in terms of stock structure and composition and, therefore, the subsequent quality of the fisheries?

Photograph of GFT biologists sampling sea trout on the Fleet

GFT biologists sampling sea trout on the Fleet

The project will be delivered through undertaking various tasks:

1. Fishery Inventory - describe the commercial (net) and recreational (rod) fisheries in terms of their location, type, declared catches, fishing effort, trends in performance, socio-economic value and potential for further development.

2. Stock Discrimination - develop a database of the genetic and micro-chemical profiles of the juvenile sea trout and brown trout populations of individual catchments to provide a benchmark for determining the river/region of origin of adult sea trout caught in estuarine, coastal and offshore waters.

3. Marine Ecology & Behaviour - investigate the distribution and pattern of marine movements, feeding behaviour and diet of adult sea trout in estuarine, coastal and offshore waters.

4. Freshwater Production - evaluate the distribution, quality and availability of spawning and rearing habitats for juvenile trout in selected catchments, describe their freshwater production capacity in terms of smolt yields and explore the potential for modelling sea trout production using habitat features.

5. Life History Variation - describe the life history variation for different stocks of adult sea trout from 20 selected rivers, to consider the linkages between environmental conditions within the freshwater and marine environments and the life history strategies adopted by sea trout, and to develop preliminary models to illustrate the impact of life history variation on fishery performance.

Fieldwork Sampling Programme

The project requires a massive commitment to collect the information and material required for the different elements of the study. In Galloway this included the collection of scale samples by anglers and netsmen, electrofishing and coastal netting.

Photograph of GFT setting nets for sea trout on the coast near Cardoness

Setting nets for sea trout on the coast near Cardoness

Further Information

More information about the project can be found on the CSTP website or on the news section of the GFT website.