Monday, November 2, 2009

Salmon Fishing Scotland Salmon and Climate Change.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Salmon and Climate Change.

This was an interesting article in the Scotland on Sunday yesterday which should fuel a bit of a debate.

Climate change scientists hope salmon will lend them an ear.

Published Date: 01 November 2009
By David Leask

THEY must be the tastiest of scientific instruments.
Researchers have unveiled what they reckon will be one the most sophisticated tools they have to measure and forecast climate change: Scottish wild salmon.

Scientists believe they will be able to plot the worrying warming of the North Atlantic by carefully studying the king of fish, which lays down a record of the temperatures it passes through in the bones of its ear.

First, however, they are putting together a DNA map of the species knowing exactly which fish come from which river, so they can trace them across the seas.

Scientists at Marine Scotland, the former Fisheries Research Service, expect to be able to identify unique genetic fingerprints for half of all 400 salmon rivers in the country – and as much as 95 per cent of stocks – within the next two years.

Along with colleagues in Ireland, Norway and elsewhere, Scottish researchers started doing so in order to find out exactly where the fish go – and why an increasing number of them never come back.

But now they have realised they are effectively creating an astonishing asset for those who want to pinpoint precisely what is happening in our changing oceanic environment.

Malcolm Windsor, secretary of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation, the only international treaty body with its HQ in Scotland, explained why salmon could become biological climate change indicators.

He said: "What other animal would you find that would not only sample distant waters 3,000 miles from Scotland, but would then return to precisely where it is born and enter fresh water rivers and then swim up their length.

"You have an animal that is testing all those environments, the fresh water high up in the Highlands. That is why we see it as a kind of aquatic canary. You couldn't devise a machine to ensure all those environments are in good shape. But the salmon can do it. The fish is already sending us a message that all is not in well in the environments, particularly out to sea."

Once Scottish fish are fully mapped genetically, researchers out at sea will be able to identify the origin of most of the salmon they pull up in distant waters, be they Scots, Irish or Norwegian.

Scientists will be able to dissect some of the fish to find out what kind of temperatures they have encountered by measuring subtle changes in the oxygen isotopes in the ear bones.

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