Fish farms crisis

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Your fishing and shooting corr­espondent Alastair Robertson (21 June) succinctly summarised the catastrophic effects that salmon farms (largely Norwegian-owned) are having on Scotland’s wild populations of salmon and seatrout.

Fish farms are strictly regulated in Norway, a country that highly values the importance of the 
angling industry to its businesses and rural communities.

No so in Scotland, whose government has chosen to turn a blind eye to the evidence for many years.

To these farms can also be att­ributed extensive pollution of coastal and estuarine environments throughout the west coast of Scotland to the 
detriment of wildlife and inshore fisheries.

For example, there is public concern at the loss of seabird populations due to the wholesale netting of their food supply (sand eels and other juvenile fish populations) for processing into fish meal.

It takes several tons of fish meal to grow one ton of farmed salmon.

Catches of wild Atlantic salmon have fallen precipitously in recent years such that it is now 
recognised to be an endangered species.

Responses of other countries, including Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Faroes and England, have been to stop or to limit salmon netting operations.

The river anglers’ response has been to practice catch and release, thereby allowing more salmon to reach their upstream spawning grounds.

How has the Scottish Government responded? It has allowed salmon farms to expand, uncontrolled and ineffectively monitored.

It continues to allow mixed stock netting and expansion of Usan Fisheries netting operations in north-east Scotland which impacts on salmon runs heading for east coast rivers and probably 
European rivers too.

Alex Salmond’s latest political stalling ruse is to announce an 
independent review of wild fisheries management in Scotland (no doubt to join other ineffective 
reviews over the past 30 years) and guess what – the topic of salmon farming is excluded from the agenda.

Whatever else Alex Salmond’s political successes turn out to be, he will remembered as preferring short-term gain over long term sustainability and presiding over the most serious aquatic
environmental disaster in Scotland’s history.

Vaughan Ruckley

Blackbarony Road

Edinburgh