Fishing & Shooting: Everyone except the fish farmers agree that fish farms seriously damage wild stocks
Almost ten years ago the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust (OHFT) decided to find out what salmon and sea trout fishing was worth to the islands. Back came the answer – and remember this is ten years ago – about £4 million a year, or 12 per cent of total tourist expenditure.
It was also noted that anglers were good because they tended to return, and spent more money than most. (They also don't generally trash holiday cottages or hotel rooms, or let their children off the leash.)
That 12 per cent figure doesn't seem very much. But 4m is not to be sneezed at. In those days angling alone was bringing in 7,500 visitors a year. Even better, it was supporting 260 full-time equivalent jobs, which essentially means hundreds of part- time and seasonal jobs – not life-time guaranteed employment, but handy pickings.
And when the number of local anglers was factored in and the researchers had applied various government-approved multipliers, it was decreed that angling for salmon and sea trout was worth 6m a year to the islands – in 2000.
The report also noted that there was little or no marketing to speak of. Sure, the likes of CKD Galbraith stuffed its annual sporting lets catalogue with gorgeous photos of wild rivers and riven skies. But what the islands needed was an APO or Angling Promotion Officer, said the report.
An APO was found, funded by Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar and supported by Western Isles Enterprise and, ever since, the APO has been managing the www.fishhebrides.co.uk website, setting up youth training development schemes and promoting island angling.
Needless to say, all this costs money. So the trust recently asked Caledonia Lighthouse, the Norwegian-owned salmon farming company that operates in the area, for 35,000 funding.
Now considering that salmon farming is virtually guaranteed to damage local stocks of wild fish which the trust and its APO is trying so hard to conserve and promote, this request is not without irony.
Caledonia has one of its own directors on the OHFT board. Indeed there is not a fisheries trust on the west coast that doesn't have a fish farm director on its board (Caledonia's man is on two), which is all a bit rum.
Everyone except the fish farmers agree that fish farms seriously damage wild stocks of salmon and sea trout. So what are all these fish farm directors doing on trust boards? Arguing for the removal of their own cages to preserve wild stocks? Hardly. Caledonia for one is planning a new farm near the mouth of the River Gress near Stornoway; a river that has been carefully nurtured back to life by the Gress Angling Association.
"Do they really need this new site, when only last week we read of them trying to sell off existing sites?" ask the Gress anglers. Perhaps the rep on OHFT can tell them.
www.thescotsman.co.uk /shooting- fishing for all the best sporting holidays and kit in Scotland
• This article was first published in The Scotsman Magazine on 06 February 2010
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