IT IS the king of fish and one of the finest places to catch it in central Scotland is the River Teith. 

Now, a £350,000 project is set to restore and improve the headwaters of the River Teith catchment area to ensure Atlantic salmon and other species can continue to thrive. 
Work by the River Teith Catchment Project to reverse biodiversity loss to the river has just started on the River Larig, near Lochearnhead.

It is one of a number of major projects on salmon rivers across the country aimed at reversing declining numbers of Atlantic salmon. 

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They include work at the River Tyne in East Lothian to remove river obstacles that are preventing fish from reaching spawning areas. 

The River Teith project will see thousands of trees planted along the river corridor to provide, eventually, shade and cover for wildlife such as salmon, trout and lamprey.

Large pieces of wood will also be added to the river channel to boost in-stream cover and stabilise but also diversify in-stream habitat – something that is lost due to the lack of trees lining the banks. 

The wood being placed in the channel will provide cover for fish while using natural river processes to create pools, runs and riffles.

It will also provide a food source for invertebrates, which will improve the feeding for salmon and trout.

The project will also reduce excessive erosion, caused by poor bank-side habitat structure, using wood and other natural materials to reinforce the banking at key 

It is hoped this will help native vegetation and trees to take hold along the sections of bank so they can eventually take over from the woody structures being put in place. 

All of the activity has been developed in partnership with the landowner who is said to be supportive of the restoration of the river and improvement of the catchment as a whole. 

The project is being led by the Forth Rivers Trust after the charity secured funding worth just under £350,000 worth of funding to restore and improve the headwaters of the River Teith catchment.

Funding has been provided by NatureScot’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund to support the restoration and improvement, and a match-funding contribution of £10,000 for the project has also been provided by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. 

Staff from the trust will work on the project throughout the year, and a call has gone out from Forth Rivers Trust for volunteers to help carry out the work. 

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Alison Baker, Forth Rivers Trust director, said: “Creating an environment in which our native fish can thrive is of paramount importance if we are to ensure that we do not lose these iconic species, including Atlantic salmon, trout – both resident and migratory – lamprey and eels.  

“These species are declining due to impacts of land use as well as the threats of climate change.

“The Larig, as the headwaters of the Teith system, is vital for spawning and for juvenile fish as well as supporting the ecosystem and wildlife throughout the catchment.  

“The work will also start the process of making the river more resilient to an ever-changing climate due to global warming. This project is vital for the restoration and protection of nature for future generations to come.” 

Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, said the project is an “excellent example of partners coming together to restore and improve nature and help mitigate the very real effects of climate change”.
Mr Watson added: “Restoring biodiversity and the natural environment across the National Park is vitally important.

“Many of our iconic habitats and species in Scotland are in decline so this is important work to restore and improve the headwaters of the River Teith and to create an environment where native fish species can thrive, despite the increase in temperatures that climate change brings.”

The project is one of a number of initiatives aimed at stimulating Scotland’s wild salmon numbers, which have been declining since 1971 and are failing to meet conservation targets. 

They include a bid to bring wild salmon back to the River Tyne, in East Lothian, by removing barriers and potentially opening around 200km of waterways to migrating salmon and sea trout.

According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), the work is one of the largest fishing-channel projects it had ever undertaken.

It has estimated that up to 90 per cent of the River Tyne in East Lothian was inaccessible to fish at one time or another.

Disused weirs which once diverted water from the river to mill waterwheels are being examined to see if they can be removed, and the river opened up to fish movement. 

The river is known to Outlander fans, with Preston Mill and its waterwheel featuring prominently in the first series of the popular television show.

Work has already started to remove Knowes Weir close to the landmark, while talks are under way with the National Trust for Scotland, which oversees Preston Mill, over dredging work at the site.

Meanwhile, a survey is being carried out on the River Ness to identify steps that can be taken to protect the habitat of wild Atlantic salmon in the river. 

Ness District Salmon Fishery Board hopes it will eventually lead to action which will help counter a decline in fish numbers by protecting and enhancing the species.

The board says that the quality of habitat is under “increasing pressure from human activities and climate change”.