Welcome to the remarkable world of the River Spey, its tributaries and the wider Spey Catchment – a place of immense natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and thriving communities nestled within one of Scotland’s most majestic landscapes.
The Spey catchment is more than just a series of rivers – it is a tapestry of interconnected habitats, where the River Spey and its tributaries form lifelines for an array of remarkable wildlife. From the rocky falls of the River Truim, where salmon leap upstream, to the rare wading birds that call Insh Marshes home, to the world-famous Moray coastline, the Spey Catchment is a special place and is worth protecting.
Join us below to find out a little bit more about the Spey catchment, it’s wildlife and its communities.
A Haven for Wildlife
The Spey Catchment, covering an expansive area of over 3,000 km², is home to the River Spey – Scotland’s third largest river. This network of rivers and tributaries, spanning over 36,500 km, is teeming with a diverse array of species and provides a crucial habitat for a multitude of wildlife.
The Spey Catchment is a safe haven for an impressive array of wildlife. Its rich habitats support various species of birds, mammals, insects, and invertebrates. From the magnificent osprey to elusive otter and iridescent dragonflies, the biodiversity here is truly captivating.
This area is bestowed with the honour of being a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under European legislation. This signifies its significance as a refuge for four endangered species: the Atlantic salmon, otters, Freshwater pearl mussels, and Sea lamprey. Many parts of the catchment are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), recognised for their exceptional natural features. Insh Marshes in Strathspey, in particular, are globally acclaimed for their incredible biodiversity.
A Landscape for People
The Spey Catchment is not just a sanctuary for wildlife; it’s also a place for people. It’s a place where communities flourish amidst stunning natural landscapes, and where a balance is struck between livelihood and conservation.
The catchment is home to a number of vibrant communities from Kinguisse to Aviemore, Grantown on Spey to Fochabers, each with its unique culture, history, and industry. The River Spey is also a source of livelihood, serving as the foundation for several economic activities. Tourism, agriculture, forestry, and food and drink are all integral to the catchment’s economy, with over 50% of all Scotch whisky distilled on the Spey.
Recreational activities like fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, walking, and cycling along the Speyside Way are also popular. Fishing, mainly for salmon and trout, contributes around £15 million to the economy and provides jobs for approximately 370 people.
The health of the River Spey, it’s tributaries and the wider catchment is directly linked to these local communities and industries.
Despite its natural wealth, the Spey Catchment faces many challenges in the years ahead. As the demand for renewable energy increases, there’s more pressure to use the Spey’s waters for hydropower generation, which can interfere with the river’s natural functions downstream, our communities, industries and the wildlife that lives in our rivers.
Development and population growth pose increased demands for drinking water and lead to more treated sewage entering the river, requiring careful management to ensure the river’s health.
Climate change also casts a shadow over the catchment, with predictions of hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters for north-east Scotland. These changes could lead to low flows and peaks in water temperature, threatening the survival of salmon and trout, and harming many other species. Intensifying storms and spates could cause flooding, excessive erosion, and damage to the river’s ecology.
Our mission at the Spey Catchment Initiative is to confront these challenges head-on and create a sustainable, climate-resilient and thriving environment for wildlife and communities throughout the Spey Catchment. We invite you to join us on this journey, to protect and preserve this extraordinary place for future generations.
Can you help us make this plan into a reality?
We would love to hear from you.