Wild on salmon

I fear the two responses (Letters, 2 August) to my letter concerning the Scottish Government’s neglect of Scotland’s aquatic environment wholly missed the point. My purpose, in supporting the representations by the tourism industry, was to highlight the government’s deplorable environmental record.

Dr Jaffa accuses me of being selective in my illustrations of the government’s neglect.

In fact, the only respect in which my account was “selective” was that, for the sake of brevity, I did not include every example of that neglect.

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Dr Jaffa produced no evidence to show that my comments were factually incorrect.

Instead he took the opportunity to accuse anglers of “annual butchery” of wild salmon.

He quotes a figure of “350,000 salmon deaths… an estimated 800 million eggs that could have helped conserve threatened salmon stocks”.

Dr Jaffa is free to air his anti- angling views, but spoils his case with a gross misrepresentation of the facts. The only available statistics on salmon catches come from the government’s marine scientists and can readily be found on the internet.

Over the past ten years the annual river catch for the whole of Scotland averaged 75,000 salmon, a small figure relative to the largely unmeasured and unreported catches by netsmen at sea and the inshore fixed engines, nets and cobles and haaf nets.

These salmon had no chance to spawn. In the past ten years, in order to conserve stocks, Scottish anglers have released between 50 and 100 per cent of their catch (percentages vary from river to river).

Moreover, scientific studies show that around 95 per cent of released salmon survive to live out their full lives and spawn successfully.

Scott Landsburgh of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation answers none of my criticisms concerning environmental degradation caused by fish farms – probably because they are in fact irrefutable.

He argues that salmon catches were declining before fish farming started.

It is hardly surprising that wild salmon is fast becoming become an endangered species worldwide, given the increasing battery of environmental hazards faced by migratory fish, including urbanisation, pollution, water abstraction, dams, hydroelectric devices, watershed damage by agriculture and forestry, and deterioration of the oceans by climate change, pollution and over-exploitation.

Why add an avoidable hazard in the form of fish farms, as currently practiced?

Mr Landsburgh tells us that salmon farming is a sustainable industry. It may be, but not until it cleans up its act.

In the United States, Canada and Ireland, progress is being made on rearing salmon in closed containers both at sea and on land. These methods avoid covering the seabed with sewage, colonisation by parasites, the lethal effects on indigenous fish stocks, and the need for repeated toxic chemical treatments the damaging consequences of repeated fish escapes.

The excuse, of course, will be the development costs, but nothing can justify the environmental, social and economic consequences of current salmon farming practices.

Why does the Scottish Government not mandate Scottish salmon farmers to move with the times?

Vaughan Ruckley

Blackbarony Road

Edinburgh

Alistair Anderson (Letters, 2 August) asks from which fantasy book of statistics the figure of 350,000 salmon killed by anglers has been obtained. It is the cumulative figure taken from government statistics for the past ten years.

Mr Anderson may not like the emotive language, but killing wild salmon in some rivers may also be in contravention of the European Habitats Directive which prohibits the slaughter of protected wild stocks if farmed alternatives are available.

Salmon farming is regularly blamed for the demise of west coast stocks even though there was a decline long before the 
arrival of salmon farming to the area.

(Dr) M R Jaffa

Middleton Road

Manchester