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There has been a great deal of debate as to whether beavers will have a positive or negative impact on our salmon rivers in Scotland. Some people involved with salmon fishing fear that the dams built by beavers will block the salmon’s access to spawning grounds. It is claimed that, because modern agricultural practices in Scotland have canalised rivers, salmon have been forced upstream to the tributaries to find redds for breeding and that here they will come into conflict with beaver dams, once beavers are widespread throughout the river system.
Various expert opinions have been expressed about the problem that beaver dams will pose to migrating salmon – Ronald Campbell believes the beavers will cause a problem and informally, Professor John Thorpe, thought the contrary.
The research papers, which are on the research tab, show that in American rivers the state of affairs is the other way round – it is the removal of beavers and their dams and coarse woody debris from the rivers that has been an important cause of loss of salmon, and their return greatly increases salmon numbers. The size of salmon parr in beaver pools is much larger than elsewhere in the river. In the South Umpquha river in Oregon, beaver have been returned to a river ruined by logging as part of a successful programme to get salmon back.
The counter argument to this research is that it applies to a different species of salmon, and a different species of beaver in a different topography. There is very little research into beaver impacts in Europe as no problems have been reported in either France or Norway so no research has been carried out. It is likely that those who fear a negative impact of beavers on salmon in Scotland would not find such research persuasive either, as the topography, landownership and fishing customs are different. for this reason we support the idea of research into salmon and beavers in Scotland. The Tay beavers provide an excellent opportunity for this research.