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At the May meeting of the Civic Society, Alistair Cochrane gave us an inspiring presentation about his vision to make Berwick-upon-Tweed the Salmon Capital of the World.

He reminded us that Berwick has a unique and historical connection to the salmon going back to Roman times. Even though there has been a decline in the last 30 years the Tweed is still one of the world’s most important salmon rivers, seeing 100,000 on an annual run out of only 2,500 million in the world. The fish pass the mouth of the Tweed having left their spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the river where they were hatched some 2 – 4 years previously. Now, as smolts, they travel vast distances to mature in the northern waters of Iceland and Greenland where there is a plentiful supply of food, before returning, up to four years later, as adult salmon to the waters where they were born, to breed.

Berwick’s position at the Mouth of the Tweed ensures that it is in an unsurpassed location for such a Centre with excellent transport links. The town not only has a recorded history of salmon netting going back many centuries but also the subsidiary industries of selling, distributing, exporting etc. evidenced by the many references to salmon in the town – the names of streets, pubs, shops, the ice houses and shiels still visible today.

A commanding site on the Shoregate has been provisionally promised for a sustainable building, sensitive to its surroundings, offering not only the history of the past but the possibilities for the future. The use of modern-day virtual reality equipment would enhance the experience of visitors. Links would be made with relevant organisations in the town and beyond. Future plans include outreach work and a research facility.

Currently, Alistair has a small team and the non-profit-making project has been registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC). A conservative cost would be £15 – 20 million and both public and private funding is sought. The next stage would be a Market Assessment Report and Business Plan made by an independent party. Local support is seen as essential and welcomed alongside advice, information, volunteer help and financial contributions.

It is envisaged that the Tweed Salmon Centre would inspire, raise awareness and educate. It would bring economic as well as cultural benefits to the town. Let us celebrate the Tweed in all its aspects before it is too late!

Sandra Gann, May 2023