A GOVERNMENT review of wild fisheries in Scotland is failing to take into account the threat posed by farmed salmon, experts have claimed.
The review, launched in January by Alex Salmond at the start of the River Tay fishing season, is looking at how best to manage wild fish stocks and maintain their sustainability in the years to come.
But yesterday experts, including Jenny Scobie, director of Protect Wild Scotland, Orri Vigfússon, chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, and Richard Shelton, former head of the Scottish Government’s Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory, claimed the review is being conducted “behind closed doors” and ignoring the adverse impact of farmed salmon on wild populations.
“The review reeks of a private gentlemen’s club dictating the fate of Scotland’s wild fisheries behind closed doors,” said Scobie.“The lack of transparency, lack of wider public engagement and lack of coverage of salmon farming concerns completely undermines the integrity of the Wild Fisheries Review.
“Salmond ignores the growing salmon farming problem at Scotland’s peril. The policy of Scottish ministers to increase salmon farming production by 50 per cent by 2020 is that last nail in the coffin of wild salmon in Scotland. Salmond cannot continue to hide the truth about Scotland’s polluting salmon farming industry.”
Vigfússon said efforts to save wild Atlantic salmon needed immediate action. He added: “The Wild Fisheries Review stops where the major problems for wild salmon start – namely in the estuaries, sea lochs and out at sea.
“For all Salmond’s posturing, the Scottish Government does not have a sustainable salmon policy. The Scottish Government want salmon independence via a free ride in the high seas, but then greedily wants to net them back at home. Such a selfish policy represents a slap in the face to Greenland, Iceland and everybody who is fighting to protect wild salmon.”
Shelton said: “There is one very serious problem which is crying out to be addressed.
“My colleagues and I at the Freshwater Laboratory and our opposite numbers in the Irish Republic have known since 1989 that the collapse of sea trout populations in West Highland Scotland was being driven by the large numbers of sea lice associated with the cage rearing of salmon.
“It is a problem which continues to get worse and also greatly depletes salmon populations in fjordic systems.
“Efforts to reduce sea louse numbers to levels which do not threaten the wild fish have failed dismally, despite the large-scale use of dangerous chemicals which ultimately threaten the valuable lobster, prawn and crab fisheries of the Highlands and Islands.
“Add to this assault on sea trout and salmon populations the effects of bacterial and virus disease and the widely reported problem of genetic introgression. Healthy wild sea trout and salmon populations cannot exist in the presence of the cage-reared salmon.”
Campaigners have now called for a moratorium on the development of any further salmon farms. And they have objected to a series of “roundtable discussions” in Perth, Caithness, Wester Ross and Lochaber, organised by the review team, because they are “invitation only”.
A formal call for written submissions is expected to be issued later this month before a final report scheduled for October.
Last night a Scottish Government spokesman said: “This review of wild fisheries will focus on what is needed to ensure the management system is fit for purpose in the 21st century.
He added: “Ministers will then consider the review’s report and recommendations when they come in and are committed to consulting on proposals for any new management system thereafter.”