Salmon and Trout Conservation is releasing the following to the press today, 29 March:

Tay Ghillies Association joins Salmon and Trout Conservation SmartRivers programme

Over recent years, anglers on the Tay system have raised concern about decreasing fly life and reduced numbers of wild fish, particularly in some spawning areas in the upper reaches of our river system. At a first glance, the river looks healthy, signs are that something must have changed. The Tay Ghillies Association (TGA) has decided to sample the river for water quality pressures, and take action to improve its health, as part of the Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) SmartRivers project.  

The TGA will concentrate initial efforts on two important rivers in the Tay system – the Ericht and the Lochay – with a view to volunteers covering all rivers in the system over the next few years. On the Ericht, (and its tributaries, the Ardle, Blackwater and Shee), the TGA will be partnering with Blairgowrie and Rattray District Angling Association (BRDAA).

Cohn O’Dea, the TGA Chairman, is delighted to be joining SmartRivers and believes the partnership will deliver real benefit in helping to highlight salmon conservation issues in the Tay System. Cohn said: “For years the TGA has, perhaps, been too silent in its approach to conservation of the beloved salmon. In the last 12 months we have expanded our membership criteria with a view to bringing in members of the public who are passionate about Atlantic salmon, the environment and our river; helping us to make a real difference.

“We have joined S&TC’s SmartRivers programme to supplement our understanding of the river’s health. At first glance the system looks healthy enough, but many anglers comment on the lack of fly life, fry, parr and brown trout where there was an abundance many years ago. SmartRivers will help us to identify any underlying water quality problems in the first two rivers and allow us to engage with the relevant organisations to introduce appropriate fixes. We look forward to working closely with S&TC in this venture.”

Lauren Mattingley, S&TC SmartRivers Project Manager, said: “SmartRivers uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to indicate possible pollutants impacting the habitat of wild fish. Launched in 2019, we have 8 established hubs and have trained over 50 volunteers, bringing SmartRivers intelligence to spawning headwaters of many important salmon rivers. We are delighted to be working with TGA to collect this vital data and help drive action in the Tay system. SmartRivers is at the cornerstone of our work, turning science into meaningful local action to support healthy populations of wild fish and the wider freshwater habitat.”

Ends (399 words)

For further information please contact:

Lauren Mattingly, SmartRivers Project Manager

T: 07791289554


Note to editor.

Salmon & Trout Conservation is the UK’s only independent charity campaigning for wild fish and their environment. Established in 1903, S&TC fight to keep water wild and use science to drive water policy changes that improve the condition of our rivers to ensure they are capable of supporting abundant and sustainable populations of wild fish for all other water-dependent wildlife.

SmartRivers enables volunteers, supported by an IFM certified training scheme, to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.

  • Nature’s nursery is under stress

Salmon & trout are extremely vulnerable in their early freshwater life stages. The water in which they live must be pollution-free and plentiful in order for them to successfully mature and complete their life cycle. Currently, the ideal conditions to maximise ‘nature’s hatchery’ for salmon and trout are not being met in our rivers. These young fish are being subjected to subtle, and often invisible pollutants in the very water in which they live. Each of these pollutants has an environmental cost, leading to more stress in our fish and poorer quality salmon and trout.

  • Invertebrates are here to help

Invertebrates live in the same habitat as fish, so are experiencing the same water quality pressures as young salmon and trout. Through SmartRivers we are using invertebrates as a diagnostic test to understand more about the subtle pollutants ‘stressing out’ our fish.  They are easier and cheaper to sample than fish, and also show more revealing responses over time than the spot water samples used by regulators. Analysing invertebrates this way has been thoroughly tried and tested through our Riverfly Census project.

  • SmartRivers is the diagnosis our fish are depending on

SmartRivers is not a programme to just collect data for its own sake. The species found in each sample are uploaded to our open-access online database. The database uses this information to generate a water quality scorecard. The pressure scores are loaded onto an interactive map and displayed using a traffic light colour scale. When we have multiple years of data, our policy teamwork with hubs to take action, driving improvements to water quality at a local and national level.

Tay Ghillies Association (TGA) objectives are to promote the conservation and preservation of the Atlantic Salmon in the River Tay system for the benefit of all anglers, businesses, tourists, river proprietors and local people. To meet these objectives the Association will help fund specific salmon and environmental projects as well as raising river-related issues with the appropriate organisations.

Membership of the Association is open to:

a.      All ghillies employed in the Tay system

b.      Members of organisations who have an interest in the Atlantic salmon, the River Tay and the countryside and environment within the Tay system.

The Association welcomes new members – the application form is on the Association website

For more information on SmartRivers, please go to:

SmartRivers – Salmon & Trout Conservation (