Highlands & Islands

Marine energy risk to salmon studied

Salmon
Image caption Adult Atlantic salmon return to breed in the same rivers they left as smolts

Scientists are examining what impact marine energy devices planned for the Pentland Firth might have on migrating Atlantic salmon.

The fish pass through the firth between the Scottish mainland and Orkney when they leave rivers for open sea and later return to breed.

The Crown Estate is funding the research by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Sites in the firth have been earmarked for renewable energy projects.

The Crown Estate owns 50% of Scotland's foreshore and almost all the seabed out to 12 nautical miles.

It has leased a number of locations in the Pentland Firth to companies for the development of wave and tidal energy devices.

Researchers at UHI are investigating the potential risks the machines pose to young salmon, known as smolts, and adult fish.

The possible threats include fish colliding with the equipment and the devices disrupting migratory routes.

The study forms part of wider collaborative work between UHI and the Crown Estate. It has included research on fish farming and the production of marine biofuels.

The two organisations signed a partnership agreement on Tuesday night to "reinforce" their work to "maximise the benefits" of the renewables industry to people in the Highlands and Islands.

James Fraser, principal and vice-chancellor, said the salmon study aimed to fill a gap in scientists' understanding of the fishes' migratory behaviour.

He said: "Funding from the Crown Estate over the last year has enabled us to develop methods that improve our ability to estimate the probability that migrating salmon will interact with developments for renewable energy in coastal waters."

Gareth Baird, the Crown Estate's Scottish Commissioner, said the body had worked with UHI over a number of years.

On the signing of the partnership agreement he said: "This memorandum of understanding between the university and the Crown Estate further strengthens these existing working relationships and provides new opportunities for broader and more diverse ways of working together in the future."

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