A revered fish
The Atlantic salmon, or 'King of Fish', is both the largest and best known fish that lives in Scotland's rivers. Not only does it have a long relationship with humans and is an extremely important contributor to rural economies, but it also plays an important part in the overall ecology of our rivers. Salmon only breed in clean, pristine waters, and the presence of populations in over 350 of Scotland's river systems is testament to the cleanliness of many of these.
The historical importance of salmon to humans is indicated by the fact that the world's oldest known illustration of a fish is of a salmon, which is in a cave in the Dordogne, France. This dates from 25,000 years ago.
In Scotland salmon were later revered by the Celts and Picts and carvings exist from various locations. The historical legacy of salmon also lives on in place names. The Norse word for salmon was 'lax' and places such as the River Laxford in Sutherland and Laxdale in Lewis reflect the importance of salmon.
Scottish rivers have long contained high-quality salmon populations which have in turn supported world-famous fishing. These populations can produce magnificent fish with the British rod-caught record for salmon being over 29kg on the River Tay in 1922. Despite recent declines in salmon numbers, particularly marked in many west coast rivers, salmon fishing continues to attract thousands of fishermen every year. Another recent development is the importance of fish farming.