The Pitlochry Counter operated by SSE is one of the listed TGA projects for this year. For a number of reasons it is a valuable source of recording Salmon travelling up to spawn in the tributaries. Over the past two years differing reports from SSE, (the Operators of the counters), and Dr Summers at TDSFB have filtered across the District. Dr Summers takes a view the counters are not recording accurately and the returning numbers are open to interpretation. The TGA has posed the question to both the SSE and TDSFB to confirm the validity of the counter.

Following an e-mail recently to Dr Summers he, as part of a review of the season to date, included the following statement below in his report.

” While the summer run is clearly encouraging, what about the spring? Before lockdown the spring run to then was disappointing. With no fishing, the only indicator during the crucial month or two is the Pitlochry fish counter. By 3 August, the public display was reading just over 2000, which is nearly 700 above last year’s very poor count at the same time. SSE have informed us that staff have spent some time in the viewing chamber counting fish visually. They consider about 1/3 of fish observed visually passing through the counter were not counted, confirming there is an issue with the new Mark 12 counters that were rolled out from 2018. So far, they have not been able to detect any sort of systematic cause of the undercounting. Therefore, it the true count is around 3000, then it would be pretty much average for recent times, discounting the last three poor years”.

The TGA went directly to representatives of the SSE for a response quoting the above statement and received the following response.

“However, I can confirm that the statement provided by Dr Summers is correct and is based on information we provided him. The estimate of a third of fish not being counted is based on a small sample size which were observed, so is an approximation, but confirms the counters are not counting accurately and as such the count number should be considered a minimum number of fish passing the dam”.

We have now written to Dr John Armstrong and Mr Alastair Mitchell at Marine Scotland to complain this is not acceptable and to press SSE to effect repairs but it must be remembered SSE have no legal obligation to do so, a requirement never having been built into the original construction project. We find it unacceptable that the Tay has no reliable counter, particularly at such an obstacle as the Pitlochry Dam, and will continue to press for repairs.

(Photo courtesy of BBC)