Smolt-tracking could give new insights into salmon migration

10th December 2020 - Derwent Catchment

We’re working with the University of Glasgow on a research project that aims to increase understanding of the migration journeys of young salmon.

‘Save our Salmon’ is a two-year partnership project between West Cumbria Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency, the University of Glasgow, Natural England, Derwent Owners Association and several local angling clubs.

The project involves trapping, tagging and tracking Atlantic salmon smolts to understand more about their movements on their journey through the River Derwent and out to the Irish Sea.

Smolts are the stage in the salmon life cycle where they leave their juvenile habitats and migrate out to sea for the first time. Very little is known about this stage of the life cycle. We hope the project findings will better inform management decisions and action to try to address the decline of the salmon population within the River Derwent – which is sadly following the global downward trend in Atlantic salmon populations.


One of the smolts caught and tagged in 2020 (Photo: University of Glasgow) 

The project started in Spring 2020 and runs for two years. Despite the pandemic and subsequent lockdown preventing us from conducting the full range of research we set out to do this spring, researchers from the University of Glasgow successfully fitted tags to 100 smolts – the full number they aimed for – and tracked them through the catchment.

A PhD researcher dedicated to the project is now reviewing the tracking data from 2020, and we are reviewing our methodology and formulating the best approach for 2021 to gain maximum value from this project. The findings will be published at the end of the project.

We’d like to thank the Robin Rigg Community Fund who have supported our contribution to this project.