We all have a responsibility to save the ‘King of Fish’

The publication of new Environment Agency byelaws banning the killing of salmon in the North East drift and coastal nets was very welcome news earlier this year and brought to a close a campaign by fisheries organisations that lasted some 30 years.

Scotland banned drift netting in 1962 and closed down its coastal nets in 2016, so most UK salmon are now able to reach their rivers of birth unhindered by home-water netting. It was a tremendous way to begin the International Year of the Salmon. However, the same is not true of salmon feeding off the West Coast of Greenland, an area where many of the UK’s multi-sea-winter fish go to fatten up. 

Getting the quotas right

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) was originally established more than 30 years ago to set quotas for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, who between them caught nearly 4,000 tonnes of salmon at the height of their respective commercial fishing industries (Greenland in the mid 1970s and the Faroes early 1980s).  The Faroe Islands have not fished for salmon since 2000, although they reserve the right to do so if the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) ever report again that there is enough of a surplus of fish in the North Atlantic to exploit.

Greenland is much more complicated. For many years, NASCO gave the Greenlanders a subsistence quota of around 20 tonnes of salmon – fish that could be caught and either sold in the local open-air markets or kept for food by the fishermen.  Commercial fishing was not allowed, and export was banned.  Private funds were even given from around the North Atlantic countries with recreational fishing to the Greenlanders to help them re-equip and target different species.

However, monitoring and enforcement of salmon fishing by the Greenland Government was only really tightened some five years ago, when it became clear that the actual salmon catch was veering towards 100 tonnes a year.  To be fair, it is a thankless task trying to oversee any coastal activity in Greenland, as the West Coast communities are so disparate – there is no road connection between them, with travel limited to those with access to either boat or plane.  However, when Government officials started to phone round the fishing community and ask for catch statistics, alarm bells were rung.

The current situation

In 2015, Greenland accepted a quota of 45 tonnes agreed at NASCO.  Unfortunately, some people with little knowledge of the background ridiculed NASCO for the size of the quota, when in realistic terms, it was actually halving the amount of fish that was now known to have been caught in previous years.  Coupled to the new quota was a new management and regulatory system adopted by the Greenland Government which put much greater emphasis on monitoring and reporting.  In 2018, the quota was reduced to 30 tonnes.

The bad news is that Greenland has just reported a catch of 40 tonnes for 2018!  However, rather than a return to the bad days, at least the government has a handle on the fishery now and, if it abides by the NASCO agreement, the 10-tonne excess will be taken off the quota for this season, which is comforting news for our MSW (Multi Sea Winter) fish.

What this means closer to home...

All this regulation and government support at Greenland and the Faroe Islands means that UK governments have an extra responsibility to protect salmon stocks at home.  Good for Scotland and England in taking decisive action over coastal netting, but we still have serious issues to address – open-net salmon farming, agricultural impact on water quality, habitat degradation, water abstraction, barriers to migration, predation – and for that we need a political commitment throughout the UK which is sadly lacking at the moment.

I have some sympathy for Greenlanders who generally have a far better grasp of what ‘sustainable exploitation’ means than we ever have – they still derive much of their protein from natural resources and realise how important it is to manage those stocks effectively.  So when an angler lands a salmon in the UK and has to return it to the water because of byelaws or fishery rules, rather than curse the regulators, spare a thought for the Greenlanders and Faroese and their sacrifice in the name of conservation.

Better still, understand that, as Sir David Attenborough said in our recent video, if we are not to lose the King of Fish for ever, we all have to play our part, in whatever way we can, to help Atlantic salmon through their present crisis. The International Year of the Salmon gives us the opportunity to focus on that very stark warning, and act now!

- Paul Knight, CEO

Scottish Government inertia marks anniversary of Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee’s report into salmon farming

Scottish Government inertia marks anniversary of Scottish Parliament's Environment Committee's report into salmon farming

Industry allowed to persist with business as usual a year after Government was told 'the status quo is not an option'

One year on from the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s report on the Environmental Impacts of Salmon Farming, the first part of the 2018 Scottish Parliament Inquiry into the industry, Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) is concerned that the report is being allowed to gather dust by both Scottish Government and the industry.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

“A year ago, the ECCLR Committee, could not have been clearer that any expansion of the industry ‘must be on the basis of a precautionary approach and must be based on resolving the environmental problems’ and that ‘the status quo is not an option’. It is obvious that almost nothing has changed and we fear that the Scottish Government’s game-plan is yet more of the prevarication that has allowed the industry to develop without meaningful regulation and at the expense of the coastal environment and those species, including migratory fish, which rely on healthy coastal ecosystems. Consequently, environmental damage is continuing and indeed increasing unchecked. Scottish Government’s completely unconditional support for the salmon farming industry must end.”

The 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, was triggered by S&TCS' formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor for S&TCS, commented:

“The ECCLR Committee’s comprehensive report underlined why urgent action was required to protect wild salmon and sea trout. However, Scottish Government has not yet grasped the nettle and moved to legislate in order to improve markedly the protection of wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of salmon farming.”

 

SSPO still failing to publish farm by farm sea lice data in as close to real time as possible

On transparency, the ECCLR Committee’s report was adamant that the industry should publish weekly data on sea lice figures on a farm by farm basis in as close to real time as possible, together with all historic data “from the time records are available”, this to be done
by the end of April 2018.

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation has not honoured this deadline, nor is it publishing current farm by farm sea lice data in as close as possible to real time, as the Committee required. In contrast it is only publishing monthly sea lice averages per farm more than three months in arrears and it is to the Scottish Government’s shame that they have not amended secondary legislation to force transparency on this most important of issues.

S&TCS briefing as Scottish Government debate the future of salmon farming

TODAY: Scottish parliament to debate the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) committee report on salmon farming

Legislative impact is expected to follow on from today's debate, Wednesday 6th February 2019, for which S&TCS have contributed the following briefing:

S&TCS briefing for MSPs for salmon farming debate Feb 2019

STCS Briefing Addendum - SG's response to REC Report Feb 2019

S&TCS salmon farming debate briefing

S&TCS concerns concentrate on the proven negative effects of salmon and rainbow trout farming at sea on wild salmonids - both Atlantic salmon and sea trout. It has been clear for many years that Scotland’s performance, particularly on sea lice, falls very far short of the internationally agreed NASCO goals.

As a bare minimum S&TCS wishes to see the following five changes in Scotland, all of which were supported by both REC and ECCLR Committees:

  1. The development and introduction of full closed containment farming.
  2. The clear identification of a Scottish public authority charged with the statutory function to protect wild fish from the negative interactions of fish farming.
  3. No expansion of the industry while wild fish interactions remain uncontrolled.
  4. Relocation of existing sensitive sites.
  5. Full transparency and publication of sea lice, escapes, mortalities and disease information.

The Scottish Government response is in danger of allowing the “status quo”, in terms of the regulation and legislation of salmon farms (and transparency in the way that the industry operates), to persist for the foreseeable future.

This would be in stark contrast to what the ECCLR and REC Committees have both advocated after exhaustive examination and consideration. Both Committees identified major shortcomings in the way that the industry is permitted to operate. Action to remedy matters, rather than further prolonged discussion, must now be the priority.

Read the S&TCS briefing in full:

S&TCS briefing for MSPs for salmon farming debate Feb 2019

STCS Briefing Addendum - SG's response to REC Report Feb 2019

Background: 2018 Rec Committee report

The REC committee report was published in November 2018, following the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) committee report.

Read more: S&TCS warmly welcomes the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s report on salmon farming

Read more: S&TCS applauds Environment Committee report into environmental impacts of salmon farming

Both 2018 Parliamentary inquires into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, were triggered by S&TCS’ formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.

The 148-page REC report found that urgent action was needed to improve the regulation of the Scottish salmon farming industry and to address fish health and environmental challenges. Commenting on the REC report in November, Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

We applaud the REC Committee’s report, which cuts through many years of Scottish Government and industry spin and prevarication.

The onus is now on Scottish Government to act without delay to implement the Report’s recommendations, giving wild fish much needed protection from sea lice and diseases emanating from salmon farms”.

S&TCS look to the Scottish Government to take action today.

Using data to protect wild fish: River Coquet hydropower

River Coquet Hydropower

With the feed-in-tariffs for hydropower ending in March after little activity over the past couple of years, the beginning of 2019 has seen a flurry of applications for new hydro schemes.

For us, this has once again highlighted the importance of our Riverfly Census data to provide evidence, not just anecdote, on the state of our rivers.  

We recently used data from the Census in our response to a hydropower application on the river Coquet.

On this important salmon river, the Census results, which are collected at a higher resolution and frequency than the Environment Agency’s own data, indicate some phosphate, sediment and pesticide pressures already impacting the reach in question.

This, coupled with the Coquet salmon currently classified as ‘probably at risk’ and seatrout ‘at risk,’ surely means we should take a precautionary approach to such developments?

The recent closure of the north east drift nets will be a very important step to improving salmon stocks in this area, but this is by no means a silver bullet.

We must use every opportunity to remove in-river barriers to migration, both upstream and downstream, such as the weir mentioned in this application, as well as improving water quality and salmon habitat too.

The power of the Riverfly Census has led us to develop SMARTRivers – taking the Riverfly Census out to local rivers by training volunteers to sample and analyse aquatic invertebrates to species level, to provide the evidence to drive change. For more information on how you can get involved click here.

2018: A year in review

What have we achieved this year?

2018 has been our biggest year yet! So where has your support got us, and what have we done for wild fish protection and conservation? Our CEO's Year In Review summaries our influence, accomplishments and campaigns over the past 12 months. 

With the help of our many donors, members and grant-making Trusts, S&TC has had a successful year in influencing a number of wins for wild salmon and trout. The below is a quick summary; however you can download the full review here.

Accomplishments:

  • Salmon farming - we were the major catalyst in achieving TWO game-changing Scottish inquiries into salmon farming impacts on wild fish and environment:
    • ECCLR – they conducted the first Inquiry and their Report included the one-liner: the status quo is no longer an option.
    • REC - their Autumn Report was highly critical of the way salmon farming is operated and regulated and presented 65 recommendations for improvement, including most of our main asks.
  • NASCO - we work internationally on wild salmon issues through NASCO, our CEO being co-chair of the accredited NGOs which gives us unprecedented influence. Amongst other issues, we have used NASCO to influence netting closures and pressurise Scottish salmon farming.
  • Riverfly Census - 3 years and 20 rivers later, we have professional and actionable evidence of various pollutants impacting river health, nationally and locally.
    • Census results have shown up the alarmingly poor condition of some of our most high-profile rivers, particularly from sediment and phosphate, and we co-authored a peer-reviewed paper showing the lethal impact of those two stressors on mayflies.
    • The full Riverfly Census report is currently being compiled but has already influenced new invertebrate species and abundance targets for chalkstreams. The Test and Itchen report is now available.
  • Living Rivers - we've been sampling daily phosphate and chemical levels on local chalkstreams, highlighting and challenging some appalling ecological conditions, specifically:
    • Using a case study on the Upper Itchen at Alresford Salad’s washing plant to fight for the elimination of toxic chemical discharges into SAC rivers.
  • Other S&TC policy work - There has been plenty of other work this year, including but definitely not limited to:
    • Water abstraction reform.
    • Agricultural post-Brexit policy.
    • Our seat on the EA’s Water Leaders’ Group, which covers all environmental water issues.
    • Our seat on the National Drought Group, where we have represented wild fisheries since 2011.

Next Steps:

  • Salmon farming - drive the REC Committee’s recommendations through Government so that they are acted upon rather than ignored.  In particular:
    • Scottish Government to adopt legal responsibility to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the impacts of salmon farming.
    • An independent agency to regulate salmon farming against sea lice trigger levels that protect wild fish, with the sanction of forced harvest on persistent offenders.
    • A moratorium on establishing/expanding farms in sensitive locations and movement of existing farms away from migration routes.
    • Incentives for companies to move into closed containment production.
  • Netting - we are concerned that sea trout will still be exploited in some of the north east coastal nets and we will be seeking more action in 2019 to protect sea trout.
  • SMARTrivers - Our new project, based on training and utilising high resolution citizen science to understand and improve wild fish water quality.
  • Living Rivers - We will continue to fight for the protection of the Upper Itchen and have major chemical sampling plans for other rivers in 2019.
  • Much more - stay tuned for our 2019 plans, in January.

Why you should go salmon-free this Christmas

A Christmas favourite it may be; but there is nothing festive nor joyous about farmed salmon.

Salmon is considered by many to be a Christmas staple, its murky journey from net-pen to plate concealed behind tinsel-clad wrapping and slick marketing.

Two parliamentary inquiries have this year confirmed the need for rapid change in salmon farming, which is causing widespread environmental destruction and the devastation of wild fish. We have campaigned for these changes for years; but what can be done until this happens...?

And for the uninitiated, what are the issues with farmed salmon? Our CEO, Paul Knight, explains why farmed salmon is best avoided - at Christmas, and until the industry changes...

-

-

Why you should go salmon-free this Christmas

This year’s reports from two Scottish Parliamentary Committees - Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR), and Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) – following their inquiries into salmon farming, are both unequivocal; we have to adopt a far more precautionary approach to salmon farming to stop it damaging wild salmon and sea trout populations.

Quite apart from the many millions of farmed salmon dying in their cages every year through disease, parasites and the negative effects of both physical and chemical treatments for sea lice, the stark fact is that politicians from all Scottish political parties agree that Scotland’s already beleaguered wild migratory fish stocks need to be protected from the impacts of open-net salmon farming on Scotland’s west coast and Islands.

These reports vindicate Salmon & Trout Conservation’s strong campaigning over many years – the ECCLR and REC inquiries only came about because of our official Petition to Scottish Parliament in 2016 – and confirm what most of us have known for years. The challenge for us now is to drive through the Committees’ recommendations so that Scottish Government introduces, as a matter of urgency, far stronger regulation of the salmon farming industry.

This includes more sensitive siting of farms, well away from wild salmon and sea trout migration routes. One of S&TC’s key objectives received prominence in the REC Committee report - the incentivisation of companies to invest in closed containment units that physically and biologically separate farmed salmon from the natural environment and wild fish.

However, that all takes time. So what can we do?

Take a stand for wild fish

What we, as consumers, can do right now is to drive home the message to salmon producers by refusing to buy any farmed salmon products this Christmas (or indeed at any time until the industry becomes environmentally sustainable).

Forget ‘organic’ salmon (here's why), or any other marketing gimmick that tries to tell you these fish are farmed responsibly.

Read more: Organic Farmed Salmon - Let's Get Real

As it stands today, all open-net salmon farming can cause problems. None are truly environmentally sustainable.

❌ There is always the very real risk that any farm can suffer from too many sea lice parasites, which then release huge numbers of sea lice larvae into sea lochs, where they attack wild fish.

❌ Any farm can also suffer human error or storm damage that allows large numbers of farmed salmon to escape and breed with wild salmon and dilute natural gene pools.

❌ And then there is the fouling of the sea bed around cages...

❌ And those millions of dead salmon that never make it to the market because disease or chemical treatment, or just plain bad husbandry, kill them first.

❌ And more...

Urgent action now required

As the Scottish Parliamentary Committees have now identified, the Scottish Government has to act fast and decisively to save the worst parts of the industry from itself and, in doing so, save wild fish. Action now help ensure that wild salmon and sea trout are genuinely protected in Scotland.

Until then, we can send a clear message to salmon producers, just as Scottish Parliamentary Committee members have this year - current salmon farming practices are just not acceptable anymore, and the industry must evolve quickly if it is to win back the public’s confidence to buy its products again.

-

-

So, this Christmas (and until standards improve) take a stand for wild fish by taking a hard pass on any farmed salmon. Use the power you have - the power of the mighty Pound.

S&TCS warmly welcomes the Rural Economy Committee’s report on salmon farming

S&TCS warmly welcomes the Rural Economy Committee’s report on salmon farming

Scottish Government must now act quickly to put in place greater protection for wild salmon and sea trout.

Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) has warmly welcomed the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s report on salmon farming, published today.

The report builds on the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s report published in March.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor for S&TCS, commented:

“This Report is a strong vindication of the campaign S&TCS has spearheaded for some years now, and the arguments we have been putting forward, often in the face of sharp criticism from both the industry and Scottish Government alike.

We are pleased to see that the REC Committee has recognised that the law is currently insufficient to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the damaging impacts of salmon farming.

We now look to Scottish Government to grasp the nettle and move quickly to legislate to improve markedly the protection of wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of salmon farming.”

Key conclusions and recommendations in the REC Committee’s report include:
  • “….if the industry is to grow, the Committee considers it to be essential that it addresses and identifies solutions to the environmental and fish health challenges it faces as a priority” (Recommendation 1)
  • “….urgent and meaningful action needs to be taken to address regulatory deficiencies as well as fish health and environmental issues before the industry can expand” (Recommendation 2)
  • Sea lice triggers to be “…challenging” and Government urged to “set a threshold that is comparable with the highest international industry standards” (Recommendation 15)
  • “…a move away from a voluntary approach to compliance and reporting with regard to sea lice infestation” (Recommendation 16)
  • In relation to breaches of sea lice levels, “enforcement action… has not been sufficiently robust to date. It is therefore of the view that if the revised compliance policy is to be effective it must be robust, enforceable and include appropriate penalties” (Recommendation 17)
  • Sea lice data in real time to be published in real-time, made mandatory and “the data provided should be that which is required to inform the regulatory and enforcement regimes, as opposed to that which the industry itself takes it upon itself to produce” (Recommendations 19 to 21).
  • “the Committee is….of the view that a precautionary approach should be taken which will seek to minimise the potential risk to wild salmon stocks wherever possible” (Recommendation 40)
  • “the Committee suggests that the siting of salmon farms is key to managing any potential risk to wild salmon stocks and ensuring that the sector is managed responsibly” (Recommendation 41)
  • on the issue that none of the existing regulatory bodies currently has responsibility for the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks, “the Committee believes that clarity must be provided by the Scottish Government as to how this apparent regulatory gap will be filled and which agency will assume responsibility for its management”. (Recommendation 44)
  • “The Committee shares the view of the ECCLR Committee that the siting of farms in the vicinity of known migratory routes for wild salmon must be avoided” (Recommendation 45)
  • “The Committee is of the view that a…precautionary approach must be taken in Scotland to assist in mitigating any potential impact of sea lice infestation on wild salmon. It therefore recommends that there should be an immediate and proactive shift towards siting new farms in more suitable areas away from migratory routes and that this should be highlighted in the strategic guidance on the siting of salmon farms”. (Recommendation 46)
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

“Scottish Government has a clear duty to safeguard the coastal environment and those species, including wild salmon and sea trout, that depend upon healthy coastal ecosystems.

We applaud the REC Committee’s report, which cuts through many years of Scottish Government and industry spin and prevarication. The onus is now on Scottish Government to act without delay to implement the Report’s recommendations, giving wild fish much needed protection from sea lice and diseases emanating from salmon farms”.

This year’s Parliamentary inquiry into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, was triggered by S&TCS’ formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.

Suffering salmon: A temperature-gauge for our worryingly low water-flow

By our Head of Science and Policy, Dr Janina Gray. The original article was written for Countryside and Wildlife Link.

What would a third dry winter mean for wildlife and habitats?

Worryingly low water flows are of major concern to much wildlife, particularly salmon which rely on flowing rivers to travel to estuaries to spawn.

As our minds start focusing in on Christmas after a warm summer and mild autumn, the elephant in the room not receiving much attention at the moment, is the continued dry weather which could drive us into a 3rd dry winter. Whilst we are all enjoying a November that doesn’t involve the typical 3 inches of mud to contend with, what does this mean for the environment?

Environment Agency (EA) data shows river flows, as of 30 October, are below normal or notably low for most of the south and west of England and all but 4 EA areas are classified as in prolonged dry weather. Reservoirs in the Pennines and south west are still at risk from lower than normal levels going into winter. And the continuing dry autumn and consequent high soil moisture deficits, look set to result in a continued delay of winter groundwater recharge in southern and eastern counties.

Figure 1a) river flow (relative to time of year) 30 October 2018

1b) EA areas in relation to dry weather

For fish and our chalk streams the impacts of low flow will start being felt now. Reduced groundwater will severely impact the resilience of our chalk streams, and the low flows will increase siltation and die off of water crowfoot, which is a crucial part of the ecosystem.

Reports around the country suggest this year is looking catastrophic for salmon. Salmon spawning should be occurring between now and end of January, but low flows in the summer and up to now, have meant salmon arriving in our estuaries are delayed or just never entering freshwater. They need sufficient flow to encourage them to run, and many in-river obstacles (even fish passes) only allow access above certain water heights.

If the fish do manage to make it upstream, past all the predators (from which they have less cover to hide), the loss of wetted area will severely impact the whole year classes of juveniles, forcing them to lay eggs in sub-optimal locations.

If the low flows continue to May 2019, this will also impact downstream salmon and sea trouts molt migration, as well as coarse fish and lamprey spawning for the same reasons.

These are of course not the only impacts of low flows; others include:

  • Salinity incursions to rivers will kill freshwater organisms.
  • Pollution incidents in rivers will have a greater impact due to lack of dilution
  • Dried heathlands, grasslands, peat lands and forestry will have increased risk of fires.
  • Decreased wetted areas in ponds, lakes and in rivers combined with low flows will adversely impact on aquatic insects and amphibians.
  • Decreased wetted areas will impact breeding bird populations.

Low flows and, indeed, droughts are natural events and healthy habitats and species populations tend to be resilient to them. However, with only 14% of our rivers currently classified as healthy and salmon populations in a dire state, the potential impact of these weather events this winter is very worrying. We can do little about changing weather patterns, except to address man-made impacts, but we can collectively lobby government to take excessive water abstraction – and its solutions – more seriously, especially the need for water companies to find new sources of water that have less impact on the environment.

That means solutions which will include increasing demand management, improved natural and man-made water retention in catchments and, where necessary, reservoirs or desalination plants. Above all, we have to make sure that government departments, Ofwat etc fully appreciate that ground waters and many of our rivers just cannot take existing levels of abstraction, let alone the increases expected in areas of massive new housing and infrastructure construction. We must continue to press ever harder for government commitment to protecting the water environment, and a new, enlightened approach to abstraction policy seems a great place to start.

Follow @drjaninagray and @SalmonTroutCons

“Organic” farmed salmon – let’s get real

“Organic” farmed salmon

Similar scenarios play out at dinner tables up and down the UK, particularly during the festive season.

Salmon, either smoked or “fresh”, is served and the host, feigning environmental awareness, announces along the lines of:

“Don’t worry, we are always very responsible – we only ever buy ‘organic’ salmon.”

But is eating “organic” farmed salmon really environmentally responsible?

The blunt and unequivocal answer is, no!

“Organic” salmon is a con. It is simply a marketing ploy‎, aimed at the naive and ignorant well-heeled, especially those who frequent the more prestigious supermarkets and food emporiums, to persuade them to pay a premium price for something that is almost the same as bog standard farmed salmon.

The only real difference is that “organic” salmon is stocked in open net cages at a lower density. There is no separation between the farmed fish and the wider environment; fish faeces, in vast quantities, still pollutes and destroys the integrity of the seabed.

“Organic” salmon farmers still use all the same chemicals, including lice treatments, thus killing other crustaceans in the vicinity.

The problems with lice and escapes are just as prevalent in “organic” salmon - hence the impacts on wild fish are identical.

The Soil Association’s indefensible endorsement of any farmed salmon undermines the credibility of, and indeed is an indelible stain on, the organisation’s reputation.

So, the next time you hear a smug announcement from your host that the salmon being served is so-called “organic” and therefore by implication “is ok to eat”, I suggest giving it a wide berth.

At the same time, you should tactfully explain that he or she is being duped and, if they give a damn about the environmental damage all salmon farming, including that purporting to be “organic”, causes (especially to wild salmon and sea trout in the west Highlands and Islands), they should not allow such dross of sham pedigree to besmirch and contaminate their table.

 

Views of our Scottish Director, AGS

Salmon farming industry blames wild fish for sea lice infestations

Sea lice on farmed salmon – the ultimate solution

In September, following months of media exposes of salmon farming’s dire environmental failures, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) announced the appointment of a leading political journalist to the newly created role of “Director of Strategic Engagement”.

In the SSPO’s news release, the appointee is quoted as “looking forward to playing my part in helping the industry cement its already excellent reputation for sustainability...”. One wonders just where he has been to reach such a view of the industry’s record!

Now it seems that his first strategic initiative is coalescing. The strategy, designed to deflect criticism when sea lice numbers on farms spiral out of control, is to shift the blame.

Salmon farming industry blames wild fish

Recently S&TCS have been forwarded emails from two industry luminaries, addressed to Scottish Ministers and other influential MSPs. They both make similar points:

Julie Hesketh-Laird, CEO SSPO:

"With respect to lice, our members operating in sea lochs can observe an increased sea lice challenge in an environment in which they coexist with returning lice burdened mature wild salmon."

Ben Hadfield, MD Marine Harvest Scotland:

"We associate returning (wild) adult salmon with a period of enhanced infection rates of farmed stock, which are placed in the sea without a sea lice challenge."

In essence the salmon farming industry blames wild fish. They are saying that wild mature or adult salmon are to blame, indeed that they are the cause of the industry’s sea lice woes.

They clearly imply that we should forget about poor management and/or husbandry on farms and the fact that hundreds of thousands of fish crammed into a confined netted area are a perfect breeding reservoir for sea lice, because wild fish are the problem.

The logical extension to Ms Hesketh-Laird’s and Mr Hadfield’s ludicrous statements is that, in order to eliminate sea lice issues on farms, all wild salmon in the salmon farming areas of the west Highlands and Islands should be exterminated; indeed, do away with wild fish and at a stroke you remove much of the opposition to salmon farming and its expansion.

Salmon farming PR machine

To the industry, sustainability is just a vague PR concept to which cynical lip-service has to be paid.

And, as for the fate of wild fish, on the evidence of recent events, they really do not give a flying fig.

Incidentally, Ms Hesketh-Laird and Mr Hadfield are the industry’s two representatives on Scottish Government’s new Salmon Interactions Working Group, yet another talking shop initiative designed to kick the real issues for wild fish deep into the long grass.

If their input is consistent with their quotes above, then it should be a very short-lived affair.

What next?

We await the report from the current Parliamentary Inquiry into the industry, and wonder what the committee members might think of this seemingly desperate attempt by salmon farmers to lay the blame for their lice issues at the door of wild migrating salmon, a species that has been returning to Scottish west Highland and Island rivers since the Ice Age.

Meanwhile, be assured that S&TC Scotland will continue to fight to protect these fish, and their sea trout relatives, from the ravages of Scottish open-net salmon farming – an industry with an appalling environmental record and an increasingly desperate list of lamentable excuses.

- AGS