New report estimates that Scottish salmon farming mortalities are now running at 20 million fish a year despite 2/3rds of the industry being certified as RSPCA Assured

A new report for S&TC Scotland on RSPCA Assured certification of Scottish farmed salmon reveals that Scottish salmon farming mortalities as a percentage of total production have almost doubled in the last four years.

On the basis of official data, the report estimates that over 41 million fish died during 2015 and 2016, an average of over 20 million fish per annum.

With 67% of the industry signed up to the RSPCA Assured certification scheme, pro rata, this mortality would equate to approximately 27 million fish dying on RSPCA Assured farms in 2015 and 2016, although, as those RSPCA Assured farms are not named by the RSPCA, the exact figures cannot be known.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TC Scotland, said:

"There is no doubt that the RSPCA Assured logo on packets of Scottish farmed salmon is intended to persuade supermarket customers that what they are buying is consistently reared with high standards of animal husbandry and protection for the wider marine environment.

The shocking level of mortalities apparent across the industry, including on RSPCA Assured farms, casts severe doubt on whether RSPCA Assured is much more than a fig leaf, both in terms of the welfare of the farmed fish and the wider environmental performance of the fish farming industry.

We fear that consumers are left in the dark both about the welfare of the farmed salmon, but also about the environmental impact of the fish farms producing these fish."

Mr Graham-Stewart added:

"The alarming incidence of parasites and disease on the fish farms, which causes many of these mortalities, also has major implications for wild fish outside the farms, particularly the huge numbers of juvenile sea lice released from the farms into the sea lochs where they infest wild salmon and sea trout."

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor for S&TC Scotland's salmon farming campaign, said:

"The doubling of the rate of mortalities over the last four years should be prompting the Scottish Government to ask serious questions of the industry and we look to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to fully address this issue within their recently announced Inquiry into the salmon farming industry, a direct result of S&TC Scotland's detailed Petition to the Scottish Parliament last year.

The RSPCA should also re-consider urgently its endorsement of Scottish salmon farming and ask itself whether lending support to an industry with this level of mortalities and serious environmental impact, is really compatible with their charitable objectives."

The full report "RSPCA Assured certification of Scottish farmed salmon" is available here

We recently wrote to the RSPCA. The letter concluded:

"While S&TC Scotland fully respects the RSPCA's remit in matters of animal welfare, it is disappointed to note that the very weak environmental standards within the welfare standards applied to farmed salmon continue to be applied and do nothing to address the myriad problems of salmon farms to which S&TC Scotland, and S&TA before it, has tried to alert you. A report will be published very shortly, but our clear view is that the RSPCA Assured scheme should now be suspended, pending what should be an open review."

We have received no response.

Charity urges citizens to challenge the health of their local West Country rivers

The results of the Riverfly Census on the River Camel were encouraging but S&TC warns that we have to be vigilant to help keep our rivers clean and healthy and free of pollution from phosphate and sediment.

We have just completed the second year of our unique three year national Riverfly Census. The census aims to assess the health of our English and Welsh rivers through monitoring the invertebrate communities that live below the surface.

This important research has revealed that nationally sediment and phosphate are repeatedly causing major pollution problems and no significant improvement in the condition of the 12 rivers chalkstreams included in the study has occurred, in 2015 or 2016.

More rivers have been added to the Census in 2016 and 2017 bringing the total number of rivers in the Census to 23.

Two West Country rivers were surveyed – the Axe and Camel. The Axe showed evidence of degradation in the lower catchment. The Camel generally bucked the degradation trend but the charity warns that there is no room for complacency as without vigilance, river pollution could still pose a major problem.

According to S&TC the threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts from excess phosphates and fine sediments. These enter our watercourses from sources such as agricultural and road run-off, poorly treated sewage, septic tanks, and new housing developments.

The River Axe is a rain-fed river that supports salmon, sea trout, brook and sea lamprey. It also has Special Area of Conservation (SAC) protection designation for its aquatic plants.

On the Axe, five sites were surveyed: Seaborough, Forde Abbey, Wadbrook, Cloakham Bridge and Whitford Bridge. A mixed picture was found – the upper reaches appeared relatively clean but the lower reaches indicated damage from sediment and phosphate pollution. Thus, having a detrimental impact on riverfly species in the lower catchment.

One measurement used in addition to the number of riverfly species to determine a river’s health is the number of freshwater shrimp (Gammarus) in a three-minute kick sample. These were low in number on the Axe and, while this could simply be a function of habitat, it could indicate other factors at work such as pesticides, insecticides and livestock treatments such as cattle wormers.

The river Camel fared much better than the Axe. Rising in Bodmin moor, the Camel has a special conservation designation because of its otter population and bullheads. Five sites were measured in the Census including; Slaughter Bridge, Wenford Bridge, Dunmere Bridge, Nanstallon and Polbrook Bridge. The spring and autumn results identified that the Camel is a clean river and generally unimpacted by sediment or phosphate. It also has very good riverfly species richness with relatively modest Gammarus shrimp populations.

Dr Janina Gray, head of science with S&TC said:

“The results from the 2016 spring and autumn counts were very encouraging on the Camel but give some cause for concern on the Axe, which is suffering from the effects of sediment and phosphate pollution in the lower reaches of the river. Phosphate and sediment are both toxic to invertebrates in isolation and more so in combination. They damage water quality and the overall ecological health of the aquatic environment, in turn impacting wild fish. We do feel that this is a wake-up call and that prompt action should be taken to lessen the impact of pollution.”

Dr Gray continued:

“Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment. We are using these results to help drive real improvements on our rivers, for example we have worked with the local Environment Agency on the Test and Itchen to agree bespoke targets for mayfly species and Gammarus shrimp to drive action. We will be using this as a case study to help agree similar targets for the other rivers in the study, beginning with an expert workshop in the autumn.”

Nick Measham, Freshwater Campaigns Manager at S&TC said:

“The aim of our Riverfly Census is to provide an accurate picture of water quality, to gauge the problems we are facing and to identify workable solutions to restore degraded watercourses. To do this, we analyse the invertebrates down to individual species rather than families. The increase in resolution is akin to moving from a magnifying glass to a microscope. The evidence from our Census is irrefutable. Increased phosphates and fine sediments are having a disastrous impact on invertebrate communities in our rivers. Loss of flylife causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result.”

The Riverfly Census measures the number and abundance of invertebrate species in a three-minute kick-sweep sample. Different species have unique tolerances to specific types of pollution. Therefore, the presence or absence of species provides an excellent indicator of the underlying ecological condition of our rivers.

As can be seen from the results of S&TC Riverfly Census on these two West Country rivers it is imperative that people who care about their local river start to act now.

Nick Measham explains:

“Our rivers and chalkstreams are wonderful places of solace. However, although these rivers may appear healthy, our research shows that there is a time-bomb lurking just below the surface.”

River monitoring is often not picking up the pressures these rivers face. We are therefore calling for local people to challenge and act for their precious rivers.

Nick Measham explains:

“We would like local people to help change the way our rivers are managed by demanding better protection and monitoring. We can suggest training for people who wish to become more ‘hands on’ with monitoring the condition and quality of their own river. Alternatively get in touch with us so that we can take forward issues with local MPs or the Environment Agency. This is a call to arms to everyone to help save our rivers and the important aquatic wildlife that good water quality supports.”

For further information on the Riverfly Census or to contact Salmon & Trout Conservation, please email: lauren@salmon-trout.org

S&TC Scotland’s Campaign and Petition leads to Parliamentary Inquiry into Scottish salmon farming 

A formal Petition, lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland, seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, has resulted in MSPs launching an Inquiry into the salmon farming industry in Scotland.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of MSPs agreed at Holyrood this week to conduct a full-blown Inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland and the issues raised in our Petition.

Guy Linley-Adams, for S&TC Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that MSPs of all parties have shown such concern and interest and we thank them for launching this Inquiry. This will enable us to bring all MSPs attention to what they can do to protect Scotland’s iconic wild salmon and sea trout, and the wider Scottish environment, from the damage it is currently suffering as a result of salmon farming in marine open cages.”

This is a vindication of what we have been saying for some years. It hasn’t always been a very popular message in some quarters, but the message has now got through and MSPs have taken the first steps towards a solution”.

Our Salmon Farming Campaign’s 2016 Petition recommends that the Scottish Parliament should seek to amend the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 to give Scottish Ministers a statutory duty to inspect farms and enforce sea lice control on salmon farms. This is for the express purpose of protecting wild salmonid fish from juvenile sea lice infestation from marine cage fish farms, and statutory powers to order immediate culls of any marine cage fish farm where average adult female sea lice numbers of farmed fish remain persistently above Code of Good Practice thresholds.

Over the medium term, we argue that those farms consistently failing to control sea lice should be closed or relocated to move the worst performing farms away from salmonid rivers and migration routes. We support a renewed focus on moving to full closed containment of farmed salmon production in Scotland, with complete ‘biological separation’ of wild and farmed fish.

National survey identifies lethal problems below the surface of our rivers

According to the results of the Riverfly Census our rivers are continuing to show signs of severe pressure from the polluting effects of sediment and phosphate.

We have just completed the second year of our unique three-year national Riverfly Census. The census aims to assess the health of English and Welsh rivers through monitoring the water insect communities that live below the surface.

This important research has revealed that nationally no significant improvement in the condition of our rivers and chalkstreams has occurred on the initial 12 rivers included in the study over the past two years.

Dr Janina Gray, S&TC’s Head of Science said:

“The message from our Census is that 2016 was yet another worrying year for freshwater habitats across the country from Cornwall to Northumberland. Where problems exist, sediment and phosphate remain the main threats that are polluting our Census rivers.”

The threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts from excess phosphates and sediment. These enter our watercourses from sources such as farming and road run-off, poorly treated sewage, septic tanks, new developments and in certain areas discharges from watercress and fish farms.

Nick Measham, Freshwater Campaigns Manager, said:

“The aim of our Riverfly Census is to provide an accurate picture of water quality, to gauge the problems we are facing and to identify workable solutions to restore degraded watercourses. To do this, we analyse the invertebrates down to individual species rather than families. Different species have unique tolerances to specific types of pollution. Therefore, the presence or absence of species provides an excellent indicator of the underlying ecological condition of our rivers. The increase in resolution is akin to moving from a magnifying glass to a microscope.”

The evidence from the Census shows phosphates and sediment are having a disastrous impact on invertebrate communities in certain reaches of our rivers. They are toxic to invertebrates in isolation and more so in combination. Loss of flylife causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result.

Two of our most highly protected chalkstreams – the rivers Wensum and Itchen – ranked poorly in the Census in 2015 despite their SAC protection status. Results from the 2016 Census show that there has been very little change in their condition.

Dr Gray said:

“Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, or Gammarus are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment. We are using these results to help fuel real improvements on our rivers. For example, we have worked with the local Environment Agency on the Test and Itchen in Hampshire to agree bespoke targets for mayfly species and Gammarus shrimp to drive action.”

As can be seen from the results of S&TC Riverfly Census, it is imperative that people who care about their local river start to act now.

Nick Measham explains:

“Our rivers and chalkstreams are wonderful places of solace. However, although these rivers may appear healthy on the surface, our research shows that many are suffering underneath.”

Current monitoring largely fails to pick up the pressures these rivers are facing. We are therefore calling for local people to challenge and act for their rivers.

Nick Measham explains”

“We would like local people to help change the way our rivers are managed by demanding better protection and monitoring. We can suggest training for people who wish to become more ‘hands on’ with monitoring the condition and quality of their own river. Alternatively get in touch with us so that we can take forward issues with local MPs or the Environment Agency. This is a call to arms to everyone to help save our rivers and the important aquatic wildlife that good water quality supports.”

For further information on the Riverfly Census or to contact Salmon & Trout Conservation, please email: lauren@salmon-trout.org

Deadline extended for West Country Award that launches next generation of river conservationists

The closing date to apply for the Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award, which aims to help young graduates studying aquatic sciences has been extended to June 14th June 2017

Now in its third year, the Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award 2017, set up by Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) in collaboration with the Arundel Arms and Fario Club is open to young fisheries or aquatic students and offers an unbeatable opportunity to study the practical elements of river restoration and management.

Vicky Fowler, who studied biological science at Exeter University, is a previous winner of the Award and found the experience extremely beneficial to her future career. She said, “This was such a rewarding experience and it was the first time that I had appreciated how science impacts in the real world. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the practical side of river management, including conservation, catchment management, identifying funding opportunities and communicating with different stakeholders. I really did learn a huge amount.”

Vicky is now working towards gaining a PhD and is studying with the British Antarctic survey team. Her eventual aim is to stay in the aquatic conservation field but working on a very practical level.

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science with S&TC UK, said, “Vicky is a fantastic example of why this Award is so important and offers such an amazing opportunity for young fisheries/aquatic students to gain unbeatable work experience.”

The Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award offers students:

  • One week at the Arundell Arms, one of the country’s leading Country Sports hotel; learning hands-on fisheries management and fly-fishing from the experienced river managers and gillies.
  • One week with the West Country Rivers Trust; learning catchment management and water science from the Trusts eminent scientists.
  • £500 to cover expenses

The work experience for the winning student has been organised for week commencing 25th September 2017.

Anne Voss-Bark was a dedicated conservationist and her love of fly fishing made her aware of changes in the countryside detrimental to our rivers and fish. She worked tirelessly to see this demise reversed. Anne was a strong supporter of the S&TC UK, the only UK fisheries campaigning charity. She was a Council Member, Vice Chairman and finally Vice President of the charity. Anne, with others, also founded the West Country Rivers Trust, embracing the concept of total river management. Anne will also always be well-remembered as the perfect hostess at the Arundell Arms in Lifton, Devon, which was rather run down on acquisition but developed by her over nearly 50 years into today’s eminent fishing and country sports hotel.

Wild fish and their habitats were of great importance to Anne and the challenge for students wishing to submit an application for the Anne-Voss Bark Memorial Award, is to write a literature review on ‘Hatcheries – good or bad for wild fisheries’ (max. 2,500 words).

The Closing date for applications is 14th June 2017. To submit an entry or for further information on the Award, please contact Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science at S&TC UK by email on: janina@salmon-trout.org .

Photocaption: Vicky Fowler receiving her Anne Voss-Bark Award from S&TC UK trustee Anthony Bird

Notes to editors:

Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Throughout its history and to the present day, S&TC UK has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC UK has charitable status in England, Wales and Scotland and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend. www.salmon-trout.org

James Ronald Carr, OBE (1946-2017)

It is with great sadness that we have to report that James Carr, former Chairman of S&TA, passed away earlier this month after a long, sustained struggle against an aggressive illness. Over the past two years, James astounded us all with the amazingly positive attitude with which he faced the ‘challenge’, as he put it to us recently, and it is very cruel that he finally had to succumb to it. Our thoughts are with his wife, Jocelyn, and daughters Octavia and Leonora.

James was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to conservation, education and the community, and he was presented with the award in March by S&TC’s Patron, The Prince of Wales. Below is our tribute to James when his OBE was announced.

“James, who was Chairman between 2006 and 2012, oversaw S&TA’s move to charitable status in 2008. He became one of the first Trustees, taking the position of Chairman of the Trustees until his retirement from that position in 2012. He continued as a Trustee on the Board until 2015.

With James’s Chairmanship coinciding with our formative years as a charity, his contribution was particularly important during this time. He combined a businessman and accountant’s financial knowledge and experience with an unusually wide-ranging appreciation of the major fisheries issues that we addressed at the time. This came not only from his work with S&TA over many years on Council, Executive and issue committees, but also from his time spent as Chairman of the Environment Agency’s North West Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee, which allowed him a deep insight into the freshwater fisheries world.

James Carr’s financial acumen and fisheries knowledge have been invaluable to us over many years, and all of his work for us has, of course, been on a purely voluntary basis. We cannot think of a better way to mark his contribution than for him to receive a national Honour.”

James was a great country sportsman and loved his salmon fishing. His final day’s fishing was at the end of last season on the Tweed where, on his very last cast, he hooked and landed an estimated 26lbs hen fish, which he duly returned unharmed to the river so that she could help spawn the next generation. It was his fervent hope that the UK’s salmon population would one day thrive again as it had done when he was younger – a cause about which he was passionate and spent so much of his time trying to achieve.

A Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate his life will be held in June, at which S&TC will be represented. James will be very sorely missed by all of us who had the pleasure of working with him over many years.

Turning words into action for the Itchen

We have recently joined forces with academics, anglers, fisheries scientists, conservation organisations and the Environment Agency to discuss the crucial next stages of protecting the famous Upper Itchen chalkstream in Hampshire. The battle to restore this world-renowned river to its former glory started last year when we met with other leading figures in the water and conservation sectors and agreed a 10-point action plan to ensure the future restoration and protection of this SAC chalkstream.

Encouragingly, many of the actions that were agreed last year have come to fruition. One of the key areas was to decide exactly what makes a good chalkstream. In this regard, the Hampshire Environment Agency have, for the first time, agreed key environmental targets for the rivers Test and Itchen to help drive ecological improvements.

Other actions which were identified and are now taking shape, including the need to share data, the need to address negative environmental impacts from industries such as fish farming, watercress businesses and agriculture and to achieve more political commitment from policy-makes about the importance of protecting our chalkstreams.

Paul Knight, CEO of S&TC said:

“We have been gathering considerable evidence since last year and it is time to turn evidence into action. It is vital that we all work together to protect this SAC river for future generations. Our Riverfly Census research is the first of its kind to give such a microscopic picture of the health of our river systems. We are delighted that the Environment Agency in Hampshire is leading the way in recognising the benefits of this detailed sampling and analysis and have agreed specific targets for mayfly species and Gammarus shrimp. This is really a step in the right direction and we hope it will set up a precedent that other areas will follow.”

At the conference, other speakers, who form part of this important initiative, presented their research and actions since last year. Mike O’Neill from the Environment Agency, agreed that action on the Itchen was one of their main priorities. He said:

“We are looking at solutions for the Upper Itchen and have made good progress in the last 12 months to help make the Itchen the chalkstream it should be. But we can only do this by working with other organisations and to continue the current downward trend of reducing phosphates in the river.”

However, as Ali Morse from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust explained:

“Phosphorus is one of the key drivers that is causing major problems with pollution. We have established a Phosphate Action Plan, which aims to help organisations share data as well as identifying what needs to be done to deliver improved water quality on the Itchen. We are in the process of producing a draft consultation and following this meeting will share this with stakeholders and Natural England in an effort to bring about more action.”

The conference also identified that septic tanks and private sewerage treatment systems, when not properly managed are another measurable factor in river pollution.

Paul Knight continued:

“It is shocking that these systems are not being properly managed and indeed we feel that there is no longer a need for these systems. Sewage should be channelled through the mains drainage system and we are gathering further evidence to ensure that future developments – especially those near water courses – are part of the mains system. In Germany it is unheard of to have a septic tank and there is no justification for us to continue this practice in this country.”

Agricultural pollution into the Itchen is still a major cause of concern and our Riverfly Census has clearly revealed that the Upper Itchen is in a poor ecological state because of phosphate and sediment pollution.

Dr Alastair Leake, from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), has been carrying out research on soil degradation and the results are impressive. He explained to delegates:

“An increase in phosphates and sediment in our rivers can be directly attributed to agricultural practices. But our research is showing the by implementing a few simple measure, such as a reduction in ploughing or zero-till, which encourages earthworms and improves soil quality, can reduce soil loss by up to 98%. Soil will becomes more resilient, there is less soil erosion into rivers. Significantly farmers could see an increase in yields by as much as 20%.”

At the conference we also reported our partnership with the Test and Itchen Association, who have agreed to fund the continuation of its national Riverfly Census on the Test and Itchen chalkstreams in 2017.

This important river survey involves collecting river invertebrate samples at a number of different sites on these two iconic chalk rivers this spring and autumn. The results, which are analysed down to species level, not only provide a benchmark for future ecological surveys, it also helps to highlight the causes and sources of any damaging pollutants, which can adversely impact on invertebrate species richness and abundance and ultimately the health of these two rivers.

Concluding the conference, Paul Knight said:

“We have now reached the stage where we are turning evidence into action for the Itchen. The shocking results of our Riverfly Census on the Itchen was a wake-up call. If we cannot protect the Itchen, which has an extremely high conservation status, then there is little hope for other rivers. Today’s conference highlighted how progress can be made by working collaboratively and it is encouraging that we are now starting to deliver results in order to resolve many of the negative impacts that are affecting the health and future well-being of our wonderful river Itchen.”

Consumers asked to challenge supermarkets on the source of Scottish farmed salmon

Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland is inviting consumers to help identify those supermarkets that are stocking salmon from farms which are failing to control deadly sea lice parasites.

The inexorable growth of the salmon farming industry in recent years has occurred at considerable environmental cost, particularly the impact of high numbers of sea lice parasites spreading from fish farms to threaten highly vulnerable juvenile Scottish wild salmon and sea trout populations. In many areas, despite the intensive use of aggressive chemicals and other methods to control sea lice on salmon farms, numbers of the parasites are frequently over the industry’s recommended Code of Good Practice threshold for treatment.

Research indicates that there are some 120 salmon farms in Scotland within regions where the industry’s own aggregated sea lice figures exceed the recommended threshold limits.

Fish farm cages can contain hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon, which, where treatments fail, act as efficient hosts for the sea lice parasite, which then reproduces, releasing huge numbers of mobile juvenile sea lice out into the local marine environment.

Carrying an unnaturally high burden of sea lice is known to compromise severely the survival of juvenile migratory salmonids. Lice feed by grazing on the surface of the fish, eating the mucous and skin. Large numbers of lice soon cause the loss of fins, severe scarring, secondary infections and, in time, death. Quite literally, the fish are eaten alive.

Although background levels of these parasites occur naturally in the sea, juvenile wild salmon and sea trout are not equipped to cope with large infestations. The advent of salmon farming, in largely enclosed sea lochs, has led to a fundamental change in the density and occurrence of sea lice in parts of the coastal waters of the west Highlands and Islands, with gravely negative consequences for juvenile wild salmonids.

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science with S&TC, believes it is time for a positive change:

“The long-term goal has to be closed containment, which biologically separates the farmed fish from wild fish and the farms from the wider environment, preventing the spread of sea lice and other diseases. In the meantime, we need to identify and put pressure on those supermarkets, which are selling farmed salmon from areas where sea lice exceed the recommended limits ,and to be more responsible. We need consumers to be our eyes and ears and take up the challenge to help us make a difference.”

We would like consumers to help identify those supermarkets which are selling fresh or smoked salmon grown in those parts of Scotland which are failing to keep sea lice numbers within reasonable limits.

Dr Gray explained: “We are asking consumers, whenever they are in a supermarket, to check out the label on any Scottish salmon packaging. There is no need to purchase the product, just take a picture of the packaging and upload to social media.”

The picture should be accompanied by one of the following captions:

If the salmon has no farm origin listed on the packaging, tag the supermarket and ask them why?

@tesco Which farm does this salmon come from? #salmonfarmreform @SalmonTroutCons

If the salmon comes from one of the farms listed on the S&TC website: (https://www.salmon-trout.org/uploads/image/FarmList.jpg) that are in a confirmed high sea lice region, tag the supermarket and ask why they are selling it.

@sainsburys Should you be selling this? #salmonfarmreform @SalmonTroutCons

Dr Gray concluded:

“We can all help to ensure that salmon stocked by supermarkets does not originate from the most damaging regions. The supermarkets are failing in their environmental obligations by selling fish from regions of Scotland where sea lice are not being adequately controlled. Consumers have a right to feel confident that any farmed salmon is sourced from a region where sea lice numbers are under reasonable control, thus limiting the threat to wild salmon and sea trout.”

For more advice, please contact Lauren Mattingley at S&TC by email: lauren@salmon-trout.org.

Picture caption: Carrying an unnaturally high burden of sea lice is known to seriously affect the survival of juvenile migratory wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout populations. Lice feed by grazing on the surface of the fish, eating the mucous and skin. Large numbers of lice soon cause the loss of fins, severe scarring, secondary infections and, in time, death. Quite literally, the fish are eaten alive.

S&TC Cymru urge Government to understand, value and act for rivers in Wales

The fundamental message from our seminar in Builth Wells was that agricultural pollution of Welsh rivers and streams has reached endemic proportions and that time is running out to protect the wild fish and other aquatic wildlife that depend on clean fresh waters to survive.

Speaking to the mixed audience of more than 50 academics, anglers, fisheries scientists and conservation organisations, Richard Garner Williams, National Officer for S&TC Cymru said:

“Threats to the very survival of the wild fish of Wales, including salmon, sea trout and brown trout, can no longer be ignored. The pollution of Welsh rivers by intensive agriculture has reached epidemic proportions and it is vital that the Welsh Government takes a more active stance to protect our precious waterways.”

Agricultural pollution affects some 180 individual waterbodies and the number of incidents caused by dairy and beef farms across Wales has fluctuated between 85 and 120 for each of the last six years. A significant downturn in the dairy market has added to the pressure on the environment, reducing farmers’ capacity to invest in adequate slurry and silage store management. Point source pollution incidents (such as those caused by overflowing slurry stores) have been more frequent in certain areas than others with Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire suffering over 60% of the incidents during the last three years.

Presentations at the seminar by Frank Jones, technical Adviser with Afonydd Cymru and Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith highlighted the challenges facing sustainable land management across the Welsh landscape. With belts being tightened and fluctuating milk prices, dairy farmers are struggling because of the ongoing price crisis. The scale of production required to generate a realistic return has to lead to the intensification of the sector to industrial levels, resulting in widespread and devastating impacts on the environment.

The two most alarming areas of concern in this respect and discussed at length at the seminar are the standards and practices employed in the storage and disposal of slurry. Losses from holding lagoons or the spraying of large quantities on fields in wet conditions is the ultimate pollution threat for our rivers.

Delegates at the seminar also heard the early results of S&TC Cymru’s Riverfly Census on the Usk, Cleddau and Clwyd. The scientific data from this survey accurately measures water quality and the local stresses that may be impacting on life in our rivers. Richard Garner Williams explains the importance of the Census to Welsh waters, “This system for monitoring the health of our rivers by recording the invertebrate population down to species level is unique and is vital in helping us to accurately understand the current threats facing our fresh waters in order to identify workable solutions to clean up our rivers.”

But rivers in Wales are currently suffering from alarming levels of pollution from a range of sources. In the uplands, forestry plantations are causing the acidification of rivers to the point that they are incapable of sustaining spawning fish and their progeny while in the lowlands intensive agricultural practices are making the waters uninhabitable for fish and invertebrates alike. Richard Garner Williams says, “Fish stocks and other aquatic wildlife are being hit from source to sea. It is the ‘perfect storm’. Although we have moved away from the ravages of the industrial age, we are now seeing more subtle but equally devastating impacts from pollution.”

But there is light on the horizon. Some rivers, such as the Taff and Wye are showing an encouraging upturn of fish stocks and at the seminar Peter Gough, Principle Fisheries Adviser with Natural Resources Wales, explained that there are proposals in place to protect dwindling fish stocks on other rivers in the future.

Richard Garner Williams, concluded by saying:

“We were delighted by the response to our seminar, but we need more collaboration and cooperation to trigger change and action. There appears to be insufficient appreciation across the board from Welsh Government and statutory agencies to the private sector and the general public of the value of freshwater fisheries to Wales. We need to increase this understanding, particularly within Welsh Government, of the environmental, social, recreational and economic benefits of flourishing fisheries.”

Richard continues:

“Key to any reversal of the situation is improved funding for the monitoring and enforcement agencies and heavier fines for polluters. In addition we need to reconsider our current agricultural policy and how it provides advice and financial support to our important but ailing agricultural sector so that these regular and devastating pollution incidents become a thing of the past. In this day and age, it is totally unacceptable to carry out practices that are so damaging to our rivers and environment. We know what has to be done, we just need Government and all other interested parties to understand, value and act for the benefit of our wonderful rivers and streams and the wild fish of Wales.”

Photo caption: Slurry being sprayed over a hedge into a field in wet conditions. S&TC Cymru says it is totally unacceptable to carry out practices that are so damaging to our rivers and environment.

2016 catch statistics underline pinch points in wild salmon and sea trout numbers

Sea trout catch in legendary west Highland fishery now down to a baker’s dozen

Scottish Government has today published the annual catch data for salmon and sea trout for 2016. The headline figures are:

  • The 2016 rod catch of salmon was 55,109, compared to 54,969 in 2014 and 45,175 in 2013. The five year average (2011-2015) stands at 68,308 and the ten year average (2006-2015) is 78,744.
  • The 2016 rod catch of sea trout was 18,054 – the third lowest figure on record and 84 % of the five year average.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), said:

“Salmon catches remain in the doldrums. The depressing numbers reflect poor returns in late summer and autumn. Whilst what happens at sea, in other words distant marine survival, is largely beyond our control, the importance of maximizing the number of juvenile salmon reaching the open sea is paramount. This means minimizing predation within rivers, which Scottish Government can facilitate, and also Scottish Government cracking down on poor sea lice control at salmon farms, which has decimated salmon returns in most of the west Highlands and Islands.”

Andrew Graham-Stewart continued:

“Whilst there has been a decline in sea trout numbers in much of Scotland, only in the salmon farming areas of the west Highlands and Islands situation has there been an almost total collapse. Remedying this is very much in Scottish Government’s gift. Juvenile sea trout, which remain within coastal waters, are highly vulnerable to sea lice spreading from salmon farms acting as lice production units. The young sea trout are eaten alive. Scottish Government must act to tighten the regulation of salmon farming, in particular the control of sea lice with the express purpose of protecting wild fish from infestation.”

“It is truly shocking and an indictment of Government policy that the River Ewe and Loch Maree, historically the most famous sea trout fishery in Europe, producing prodigious catches, reported a sea trout catch of just 13 in 2016. By comparison the catch in 1987, the last year prior to the devastating influence of salmon farming, was over 1700. We have seen a virtual wipe-out. S&TCS recently launched a campaign to restore sea trout numbers in the River Ewe and Loch Maree. The solution is simple – the removal of the Marine Harvest salmon farm from Loch Ewe.”

In 2015 S&TCS raised a formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament, which seeks to change the law, firstly to require immediate culls or harvesting of farmed salmon where sea lice numbers have effectively gone out of control and secondly to give fish farm inspectors the legal duty to control sea lice on fish farms, expressly to protect wild fish populations from juvenile sea lice infestation from marine cage fish farms. The Petition is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

In March S&TCS released the short film “Eaten alive – the demise of Loch Maree” – https://www.salmon-trout.org/loch-maree/video/9

Issued by Andrew Graham-Stewart (telephone 01863 766767 or 07812 981531) on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland.

Notes for editors

1) Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, S&TC UK has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC UK has charitable status in both England and Scotland (as S&TCS) and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend. www.salmon-trout.org www.salmon-troutscotland.org

2) Scottish Government action required

Fisheries scientists – including the Scottish Government’s own scientists – are firm in their conclusions that sea lice produced on fish-farms harm wild salmon and sea trout, both at an individual and at a population level. However, S&TCS believes that these threats are not being addressed by effective regulation and control of sea lice numbers on fish-farms in Scotland, which are essential to protect wild fish populations, many already significantly reduced. In 2015, the S&TCS raised a formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament, which seeks to change the law, firstly to require immediate culls or harvesting of farmed where sea lice numbers have effectively gone out of control and secondly to give fish farm inspectors the legal duty to control sea lice on fish farms, expressly to protect wild fish populations from juvenile sea lice infestation from marine cage fish farms. The Petition is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

3) Just what is the problem with sea lice?

Adult wild salmon are perfectly adapted to coping with a few sea lice. Background levels of these parasites occur naturally in the sea. However the advent of salmon farming, particularly in fjordic or largely enclosed sea lochs, has led to a fundamental change in the density and occurrence of sea lice in parts of the coastal waters of the west Highlands and Islands. Even one or two mature female sea lice per fish within a set of cages housing hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon amounts to a rampant breeding reservoir pumping huge numbers of mobile juvenile sea lice out into the local marine environment. The consequences when wild salmon and sea trout smolts, the metamorphosing fragile skin of which is not adapted to cope with more than the odd louse, migrate from local rivers into this “sea lice soup” can be devastating.

Carrying an unnaturally high burden of sea lice is known to compromise severely the survival of juvenile migratory salmonids. Lice feed by grazing on the surface of the fish and eating the mucous and skin. Large numbers of lice soon cause the loss of fins, severe scarring, secondary infections and, in time, death. Quite literally, the fish are eaten alive. Badly infested salmon smolts disappear out to sea, never to be seen again. In contrast afflicted sea trout smolts remain within the locality and they, together with the impact of the deadly burdens they carry, are more easily monitored through sweep net operations.

The 2016 paper Aquaculture and environmental drivers of salmon lice infestation and body condition in sea trout (Shephard et al, Aquaculture Environment Interactions) analysed a 25 yr dataset of lice counts from >20 000 sea trout sampled from 94 separate river and lake systems in Ireland and Scotland at varying distances from marine salmon farms and concluded that “sea trout captured closer to salmon farms had significantly higher levels of lice infestation, and that this effect was exacerbated in warmer years. Sea trout sampled closer to salmon farms also had significantly reduced weight at length (impaired condition), with the strongest impact in dry years”.

See http://www.int-res.com/articles/aei2016/8/q008p597.pdf