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Fish farms are ‘wiping out Scotland’s wild salmon’

It is believed that escaped farmed fish are interbreeding with wild fish and weakening their genetics and survival chances. Picture: Getty

It is believed that escaped farmed fish are interbreeding with wild fish and weakening their genetics and survival chances. Picture: Getty

  • by JULIA HORTON
 

NEW research has raised fresh claims that fish farms are wiping out Scotland’s iconic wild salmon.

• A new study has found that one in four salmon sampled on the west coast contain DNA from Norwegian fish

• The finding has been blamed on the impact of escaped farmed fish

• It is believed that farmed fish have been mating with wild fish, thus weakening their genetics and survival chances

A new study funded by the Scottish Government has found that one in four salmon sampled on the west coast of Scotland contain DNA from Norwegian fish.

Campaigners and fisheries managers blame the finding on the impact of escaped farmed fish which they believe are interbreeding with wild fish and weakening their genetics and survival chances.

However the aquaculture industry refuted the claim and pointed out that the research author admitted in the report that it was possible that the DNA was from wild rather than farmed Norwegian salmon.

Don Staniford, of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, said: “Norwegian-owned salmon farms are killing off Scotland’s iconic wild salmon. Genetic pollution is eroding Scottish wild salmon and turning them into Norwegian hybrids.”

Defending the aquaculture sector, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, said: “The non-peer reviewed report states that it could not tell the difference between farmed and wild fish.”

The Rivers And Fisheries Trusts Of Scotland, which commissioned the study, said the results were worrying but more work was needed to determine the cause of the findings.

Trusts director Callum Sinclair said: “We are concerned that a significant proportion of wild fish sampled in the west coast of Scotland were found to have Norwegian genetic material because we want to preserve the genetics of Scottish wild salmon.

“We would like to commission further research to determine whether or not the source of this is the aquaculture industry.”

Supporters of the aquaculture industry have previously suggested that the presence of Norwegian salmon DNA in Scottish wild salmon dates from historical fishing practices rather than modern day fish farms.

 

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