Salmon by Numbers: Quantification and Understandings of Nature

Christopher Bear

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This paper studies moves to quantify Scotland’s salmon catches, and the reactions and interpretations that these quantifications provoke. The first significant attempts to measure salmon catches developed in the late nineteenth century as fishery managers felt unable to test the effectiveness of management measures they had instituted. Legal provision for the collation of catch statistics was made in the mid-twentieth century. The paper gives a detailed study of what this collection and collation involves. In doing so, and in examining subsequent reactions and interpretations, it demonstrates that the statistics, originating in anglers’ catches but being processed by a scientific laboratory, represent a hybrid knowledge form, which does not conform to traditional classifications of scientific or local. It also examines what happens to the salmon themselves through this process of quantification, individuals caught in various times and places united on a single graph as the total Scottish salmon resource. The paper argues that successful salmon management policies would re-focus on the role of individual fish, as it is these individuals that form the amalgamated catches and with which anglers interact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185
Number of pages185
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Salmon management
  • Scotland
  • animal geographies
  • quantification
  • knowledge


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