12th March 1852

Salmon extinct in the River Kelvin

Environmental concerns are nothing new. Angus Smith had been drawing the public’s attention to the problem of pollution and acid rain when the last salmon was caught in the River Kelvin in 1852. The first variously died out, or chose not to return to the waters, when they became too polluted. Salmon wasn’t seen in the river again until 1999 – and even then they only returned after government investment in excess of £40m.

Fisheries in trouble

In 1852, it wasn’t only the Kelvin that was suffering, either. On 28 February, the Glasgow Gazette had reported on a general decline in Scotland’s salmon fisheries, declaring that it was “high time that the public attention should be seriously called to this subject… we are willing to admit that protection is imperatively required.”

However, the Glasgow Gazette’s argument was not so much with pollution caused by rapid industrialisation, as it was with the number of nets in use. “For upwards of twenty years that bag-nets have been in existence, every engine of destruction has been brought to bear against salmon, and still there are people who profess to wonder that [salmon] does not continue to be [caught in] as great numbers as formerly.” As a result, where salmon had once been a staple, it was by then becoming an expensive luxury.

Scottish salmon stocks

The Montrose Standard, on 7 May that year, had likewise lamented the state of Scotland’s salmon stocks, noting that “the salmon fishing on the river Southesk is still very unproductive.” In this instance, though, it wasn’t overfishing that was to blame, but a combination of low water levels and “the deleterious liquids from the Bleachfield, which if not soon put a stop to, will at no distant day banish both salmon and trout from our once famous river.” It continued, “some plan should be adopted by the Bleachfield Company so as not to allow their poisonous stuffs to pollute the water”.



Other events that occured in March

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