Fish farm defence

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Alastair Robertson (Fishing and Shooting, 5 October) is in the fortunate position of having his own column in The Scotsman allowing him to openly express his one-sided views on aquaculture. He suggests the salmon farming industry is in “tobacco industry denial” without recognising that this term better describes him and his angling colleagues.

Salmon farms do from time to time suffer from sea lice, as do wild salmon. Some farms have sometimes exceeded the industry code but the bar is set very low and these elevated numbers are still very low.

The industry recognises sea lice can be a problem and is continually addressing the issue. It is not in denial.

What the industry does contest is whether sea lice from salmon farms have damaged wild salmon populations. I have regularly asked the industry establishment to name any river which has a salmon population in decline due to the presence of salmon farming. I am still awaiting a definitive answer.

At the same time, the angling establishment and Mr Robertson have failed to acknowledge that some rivers in salmon farming areas have produced record catches. One such river is the Garynahine which last year had the highest rod catch of wild salmon since the 1800s at 555 fish. This is around five times the previous five-year average catch of just 116 fish.

Mr Robertson regularly criticises the salmon farming industry but has never written of the success of the Garynahine. This is because salmon returning to the Garynahine have to negotiate a ring of six salmon farms in Loch Roag to enter the river.

Equally, vulnerable salmon smolts have the same journey the other way to get to the sea. To acknowledge the success of the Garynahine is to acknowledge that farmed and wild salmon can and do live in harmony along the west coast and that this continual attack against salmon farming is unjustified.

(Dr) Martin Jaffa

Callander McDowell