A famed whisky and a famed American artist team up to help restore the dwindling populations of Scotland’s famed salmon

In an effort to boost salmon restoration in Scotland, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, a founding member of the Missing Salmon Alliance, recently embarked on a collaborative artistic project with renowned American artist, Joseph Rossano, and the world-famous whisky brand, The Macallan.

Elizabeth McMillan, Head of Insight & Sustainability at The Macallan, explained what the initiative means for their brand and their Speyside home, saying “Salmon School is an art installation of global significance, and we’re proud to host it at The Macallan Estate this spring. Through the power of art and community, Salmon School has brought people together from around the world as we work to find solutions to halt and reverse the global salmon crisis.

She continued, “This is the latest milestone in our ongoing work with The Atlantic Salmon Trust. We share a spirit of sustainability and community, working together towards our mutual goal to care for the extraordinary River Spey and its natural surroundings. With awareness and effort, we can restore wild salmon populations to their former glory.

The initiative brings a stunning art installation known as Salmon School to The Macallan’s distillery on the banks of the River Spey, aiming to bring an awareness of the salmon crisis to new audiences.

Across their North Atlantic range, wild Atlantic salmon populations have declined by around 70% in the last few decades.

Salmon School was created by Joseph Rossano in collaboration with glass artists around the world, and consists of 300 mirrored glass fish, suspended in the air to replicate the movement of a school of wild salmon and is designed to highlight the cultural and ecological importance of the species.

Having previously been exhibited on both the Pacific and Atlantic shores, where separate salmon species are similarly seeing their numbers decline, Salmon School was first exhibited in the UK for the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow in 2021, and was more recently displayed at Balmoral Castle as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Mark Bilsby, CEO of the Atlantic Salmon Trust said, “The Macallan is one of the key supporters of the Atlantic Salmon Trust and we are immensely proud to be partnered with a brand that has sustainability and the protection of the environment at its core. Their support helps us to not only continue our vital scientific research on the causes for salmon decline and to develop ambitious restoration solutions, but also to help raise awareness of the urgency of the salmon crisis and to help that message reach new audiences.

He added, “The Salmon School art installation has the power to deliver that message and we are delighted to have played a part in helping to bring it to The Macallan. Speyside is iconic for two things: whisky and salmon. Together, through working with partners such as The Macallan, we can ensure that these two halves of the Speyside soul are secure long into the future.

The Macallan and The Atlantic Salmon Trust have collaborated on several projects, including the Moray Firth Tracking Project in conjunction with other Missing Salmon Alliance member organizations.

Launched in 2019, this has been the largest acoustic tracking program of its kind to be undertaken in Europe, aiming to discover where and why young Atlantic salmon smolts are going missing as they migrate down seven major rivers in the Moray Firth.

The results are currently being analyzed and will be announced in spring 2023, however, early results are identifying barriers to migration and flow rates as two of the main factors influencing downstream migration success of young salmon.

The artwork’s creator, Joseph Rossano, summarized what wild salmon and whisky have in common when it comes to protecting the environment they share, saying “Sharing an emphasis on the vital importance of cold, clean water, Salmon School and The Macallan are working together to show what ecological recovery for the rivers of Scotland could look like, and helping visitors to The Macallan and viewers of the sculpture to visualize the finality of what is a seemingly endless resource: the wild salmon.

Salmon School can be viewed at The Macallan Estate until 8th May 2023.

The Macallan Estate is open from Thursday to Sunday each week, and all visits must be booked in advance.

See the Macallan website.

See the Atlantic Salmon Trust website.

See Missing Salmon Alliance website.

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