THE fragile future of salmon on the Tweed has been boosted with the latest monitoring technology reintroduced on the Ettrick.

The Tweed Foundation has found that around half of all spring salmon entering the Tweed head up the Ettrick for spawning.

Scientists at the Foundation, with financial support from the Scottish Government, have just installed a state-of-the-art VAKI fish counter near Selkirk to provide vital information on stock levels.

A previous version of VAKI fish counter was operational at the Philiphaugh Cauld for 12 years up to 2009, providing annual totals for both trout and salmon.

But hardware problems and construction work led to it being removed.

The new counter has been installed at the top of the Larnier fish pass close to recently completed hydro turbines to allow for the study and monitoring of the upstream migration of adult salmon and trout.

And the data will have a major influence on future management decisions for Tweed's Spring Salmon stocks to be formulated.

James Hunt, biologist with The Tweed Foundation, said: "The information collected from the fish counter is not only important for local, Tweed, management decisions but also to assist Marine Scotland in its long-term strategy to develop a fish counter network throughout Scotland.

“Accurate fish counter totals will strengthen current salmon stocks' management relative to spawning escapement targets so that salmon stocks can be more accurately assessed and appropriate management decisions taken."

Dr John Armstrong, head of the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory at Marine Scotland Science, officially opened the new counter on Friday.

The opening was celebrated by first a facsimile of a fish, and then a bottle of Champagne, swimming up through the fish counter.

Environment Secretary, Roseanne Cunningham, told us: "I congratulate The Tweed Foundation on opening this state-of-the-art counter, to which the Scottish Government contributed £50,000 of funding, and will be an important addition to the counter network in Scotland, supporting Marine Scotland's long-term objectives.

"The new fish counter on the Ettrick Water is the first of its kind in the UK, and will enable more accurate monitoring and better management of salmon and trout on the Water.

“We look forward to continuing our work with The Foundation as the new data is gathered and analysed, and improving our understanding of stocks in the Tweed catchment area.”

Following months of preparation, monitoring and technological work, the new three-scanner VAKI infra-red counter system was installed in the fish pass at the start of last month.

The first fish - a salmon - was recorded through the counter on Tuesday, April 10.

The improved fish pass is much easier for fish to locate and ascend over a range of flows and this, together with the new fish counter, will enable more fish to reach their spawning grounds and allow for more informed management.

Tweed Foundation director, Fay Hieatt, added: "It has long been our ambition to be able to re-establish a fish counter on the Ettrick, to monitor Tweed's major spring salmon population, which is so important in supporting Tweed's early fishing season.

“Fish counters are enormously costly to install and maintain, and we are indebted to the Scottish Government's Marine Scotland for their support in this project.

“Data and knowledge sharing is definitely the way forward in managing Scotland's valuable Salmon resource and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Marine Scotland Science to enable this to happen.”