Elderly fisherman claims sewage in Moray Firth wrecked catch

An 89-year-old fisherman who has been catching salmon since 1958 claims sewage pumped into the Moray Firth has seen his annual catch go from hundreds to zero.

The Moray Firth. Picture: Dave Conner
The Moray Firth. Picture: Dave Conner

Dougie MacDougall said he has also suffered three potentially life-threatening diseases that he attributes to clearing rotten seaweed by hand from the shoreline.

The pensioner has been logging the number of salmon he’s caught since 1995 and in the last nine years says he’s landed just one salmon destroying his family business.

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He is urging Scotland’s environmental agency to carry out more comprehensive testing of water quality of the Inner Moray Firth a request backed by the local fisheries board.

Scottish Water insists that its Allanfearn waste water treatment works (WWTW), which is operated on its behalf by Veolia UK, is “fully regulated by the Scottish Environment Agency (Sepa) and any sewage leaving the plant is fully compliant with all licence requirements.”

Mr MacDougall, however, claims the scale of raw sewage pumped into the firth waters around Alturlie Point has forced the salmon them further out.

He said: “The water’s absolutely polluted. I’ve been fishing there since 1958 and we’ve always had trouble with sewage but it’s been getting worse each year.

“Pollution in the firth has to be proved but to do that would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, which I can’t afford.”

The Argyll-born netsman moved to Alturlie with his wife and six daughters in the 1960s. His primary job was forestry but the family previously made hundreds of pounds in the summer months from the fishing.

Mr MacDougall said even when he contracted three severe infections from the sewage polluted seaweed “nobody believed me”.

His medical records show he acquired a urine infection in 1991, a bowel infection in 1998 and a stomach infection in 2004 – all of which he blames on “polluted seaweed.”

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Mr MacDougall said he was told by the region’s director of public health he was more likely to have acquired his stomach virus campylobacter from “raw chicken.”

Chris Conroy, of the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, said: “Mr MacDougall contacted us recently. We’re asking Sepa to take a closer and wider look at water quality around the Firth to ensure they’re not missing something.”