There could be an ­additional 1000 salmon in two Highland river systems in the years to come, because of an agreement with local salmon netters to curtail their activities.

It is the first step in a major strategy to reverse the decline of the local salmon population in the Ness and Beauly river systems.

Last year the Salmon Net Fishing Association of Scotland, said its membership would operate a voluntary delay until April 1, for the 12th year running, in response to conservation concerns. The traditional start to the netting season is February 16 .

The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, in partnership with the Beauly District Salon Fishery Board, has agreed a longer delay with the operators of two netting stations in the Moray Firth. The fishery closed on Saturday and will not resume until at least May next year.

One-off compensation payments have been made to Sandy Patience, operator of the Kincurdie station off Rosemarkie on the Black Isle, and Graham Sutherland, at Longman Point, close to the Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC stadium.

It is estimated the move could result in more than one million extra salmon eggs in local river systems.

The boards hope this will result in the return of as many as 1000 new fish to the rivers over the coming years.

Mr Patience said: "We were very concerned about the state of the salmon stock."

Chris Conroy, new ­director of the board, said: "Ensuring the safe passage of salmon to their spawning grounds is a fundamental step in our plan to reverse the decline of the Ness population. Every fish counts."