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News From Around the Fish Farms, July 2004

BARE-FACED CHEEK

The following exchange of emails shows just how detached from reality some in the business of fish farming have become. They have little understanding of the anger and outrage felt by anglers who have seen plagues of fish farm sea lice destroy once prolific runs of wild salmonids and the consequent job losses in sport angling that followed their demise.

Yvonne Kellman works in Inverness as a Marketing Assistant with Strathaird Salmon. The company processes fake salmon from farms in the West Highlands and from the Island of Skye. Spey Valley Smokehouse at Grantown-on-Spey is an associate company.

John Gray runs a fishing tackle business in Kilsyth, near Glasgow. He is a well-known and innovative tyer of remarkable salmon, sea-trout and trout flies. They can be purchased online john@graysofkilsyth.com mounted and framed, or for use on river and loch. Read on:

From: Yvonne Kellman
To: john@graysofkilsyth.com
Sent: 11th June 2004 9:21am
Subject: Spey Valley Smokehouse

Dear John

The Spey Valley Smokehouse is a small smokehouse in Grantown on Spey. We smoke salmon and also contract smoke to any person who catches salmon on the River Spey. The Smokehouse has a viewing gallery and small shop which sells food products. We would like to take in gifts and thought framed flies would be a great idea. As the shop is small and there are a few fishing shops in the area, the orders would not be extensive. What would help us is if you could make a fly specifically for the smokehouse (Individually & mounted and framed) which would make us more individual. Is this possible? If so could you please get back in touch with a price list.

Look forward to hearing from you

Yvonne Kelman
Strathaird Salmon (Sister site)
Marketing Assistant
Tel: 01463 715 123

From: John Gray
To: Yvonne Kellman
Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 12:13 PM
Subject: Re: Spey Valley Smokehouse

Dear Ms Kelman,

Thank you for your enquiry.

I must tell you that I have no wish to be associated in any way with the Scottish salmon farming industry. It may have provided much needed jobs in the Highlands and Islands but it has long been apparent that the environmental cost of such jobs is unacceptably high.

Since the coming of the first salmon farms, I have watched the sad decline of our sea trout, gone now from many of our West Highland lochs and rivers, like the Highland gillies and the boatmen of Loch Maree who depended on them.

I can think of few products more appropriate for your shop than a framed fishing fly, a relic of the past, a sad reminder of a golden age, before the coming of the salmon farms, when wild sea trout swam in our West Highland rivers and lochs.

You will, of course, need an appropriate name for the new fly. Might I suggest the “Strathaird Assasin”?

I am afraid that I cannot tie it for you, though.

Yours regretfully,

John Gray

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

The Island of Skye is famous for the beauty of its landscape, from the Trotternish Ridge in the north to the blue Cullin Hills in the south. Thousands of visitors bring essential income to the island each year and the economy of Skye is dependent upon their patronage.

Skye was also known for the quality of its salmon and sea-trout fishing, but, because of disease and pollution from factory salmon farms, wild fish have been practically wiped out. Fish farms also disfigure many once-pristine bays and degrade the unique Skye environment.

Further damage is being caused to the landscape by rubbish and waste from fish farms. Contrary to what the fish farmers would have you believe – that they take care not to damage the environment – litter from fish farms is regularly washed up onshore.

If it is storm damage, then the cages are inappropriately designed for their location. However, I suspect that rather than go to the expense of properly disposing of out-of-date equipment, some fish farmers simply cut them free and let the elements do their work for them.

The picture below (and on the front page of this months SFPG website) proves the point. It was taken by a party of walkers and is clearly bits and pieces of a fish farm. It was found this year at Camas Beag Bay to the south of Uig (OS Map 23, North Skye, Gd Ref: 380611).

If anybody can identify which farm it came from we will contact the culprits and ask them to remove their rubbish. Call on Tel: 01847 611274 or email bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk if you think you can help.

MORE FISH FARM ESCAPES

A massive escape of salmon smolts from a freshwater fish farm in Argyll is causing local rod and line anglers concern. The farm fish will compete with wild salmon, sea-trout and brown trout for a finite feeding and spawning area and degrade the natural habitat.

The farm fish were found from April onwards in the Oude Reservoir a few miles south from Oban near the village of Melfort. The only possible place that they could have come from would seem to be a Kames Fish Farming Limited site in Loch Tralaig; the loch drains into Oude Reservoir and then into the River Oude.

By law, all farm salmon escapes must be reported to the Scottish Executive (SE) Fisheries Research Services. So far, the FRS has made no comment on this alleged incident. Indeed, since reporting became law, I have never seen any public announcement from the FRS about any farm fish escapes. According to SE figures approximately 500,000 farm fish have been escaping each year from their cages. Is this still the case?

DEFEANING SILENCE FROM SCOTLAND’S FIRST MINISTER ON ALLEGED ABUSE OF PUBLIC MONEY

On 28th May, SFPG managing director Don Staniford wrote to Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell expressing the SFPG’s concerns about an award of £3 million pounds to Scottish Quality Salmon to promote the alleged “health benefits of eating Scottish famred salmon.”

At the time of writing, no reply has been received by the SFPG to this letter. Quite clearly, the questions raised by Don Staniford are of importance to everyone involved in the business of salmon farming and require to be answered fully and fairly.

There are proven health risk attached to levels of consumption of farmed salmon, particularly for children and expectant and nursing mothers. It is simply not good enough for the Scottish Executive to try to ignore them.

Neither is the recent announcement from the Food Standards Agency sufficient in itself to ally public concern. The scientific information and research upon which this advice has been given do not appear to have been peer reviewed and until there has been independent scrutiny of the details, doubts over safe levels of farm salmon consumption will remain.

In the meantime, the SFPG call again on the First Minister to respond to the legitimate and detailed questions raised in Don Staniford’s letter (full text below).

Dear Mr McConnell

28th May 2004

SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE TO PROMOTE HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING SCOTTISH FARMED SALMON

Further to the announcement by the Scottish Executive (18th May) of a £3 million “campaign to promote the health benefits of eating Scottish farmed salmon” (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/pages/news/2004/05/SEen860a.aspx), the Salmon Farm Protest Group have very real environmental and food safety concerns about what is in our opinion an abuse of public money.

This is not the first time the Scottish Executive has bailed out the ailing Scottish salmon farming industry nor is it the first time the SFPG has raised legitimate public concerns. For example, in the SFPG’s response in January 2003 to the Scottish Executive’s draft “Aquaculture Strategy” (download in full via: http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/sfpgreports.shtml) we stated under “Abuse of public money for PR purposes”:

“The draft Framework proposes to use public money to fund a PR campaign ‘designed to improve the public’s understanding of the industry’ (p34) on behalf of Scottish Quality Salmon, the Shetland Salmon Farmers’ Association and the British Marine Finfish Association. Previously, the document refers to the ‘appropriate allocation of FIFG (Financial Instrument Fisheries Guidance) or other structural funds’ (p16) but surely the award of £210,000 to Scottish Quality Salmon for a marketing drive to promote fatty, contaminated and artificially coloured farmed salmon (as the Scottish Executive did in 2001: http://www.scottishsalmon.co.uk/mediareleases/180402.html) is far from ‘appropriate’? Equally, the current PR proposal which ‘will formally commence with the launch of this strategy and will be an on-going process’ (p34) is in our view, a clear abuse of public money”.

Furthermore, under the heading “Food safety issues associated with factory farmed fish” the SFPG stated:

“When the strategy document does tackle the ‘promotion of healthy eating’ (p53) it falsely presents farmed fish in a perfectly positively light thus failing to detail any negative aspects of factory farmed fish. It fails to mention the fact, for example, that farmed salmon contain the artificial colouring Canthaxanthin (E161g) or studies showing much higher levels of PCBs, DDT, dieldrin and other cancer-causing chemicals in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon.

That the Scottish Executive is loathe to criticise the quality and safety of farmed salmon is not altogether surprising, given their conflict of interest: in the wake of the BBC documentary exposing dioxin contamination in farmed salmon in 2001 the Scottish Executive awarded Scottish Quality Salmon £210,000 for ‘communications and PR activity to raise awareness of Scottish farmed salmon in both the UK and France’. That more money is to be pumped into promoting dioxin-contaminated Scottish farmed salmon flies in the face of common sense and consumer safety”.

This point is especially relevant in view of the recent paper in the prestigious scientific journal Science which concluded that Scottish farmed salmon was so contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins, dieldrin and toxaphene that it was safe to eat only three times a year (download the full paper via: http://www.albany.edu/ihe/salmonstudy/index.html). Far from being promoted as a healthy and nutritious foodstuff, farmed Scottish salmon is so contaminated that it ought to be labelled as ‘dangerous goods’.

Once again, therefore, the SFPG asks the Scottish Executive to justify allocating European structural funds via the FIFG to an industry that we honestly believe to be a danger to both public and environmental health. The award of £210,000 in 2001 and a further £1.5 million is an abuse of European public monies.

The Scottish Executive press release – “Wilson announces £3 million for Scottish salmon farming industry” (18th May) – also states that: “The Scottish Executive has negotiated some £55 million of FIFG for the Scottish fisheries sector between 2000 and 2006”. How much of this European public money has been given to the fish farming compared to the capture fisheries sector? And how much has been given to the salmon farming industry compared to the shellfish farming sector? Could you please send us a copy of the environmental and public health criteria for FIFG structural assistance?

In regard to both environmental and public health, we believe that the Scottish Executive is being irresponsible in promoting fatty, artificially coloured and contaminated Scottish farmed salmon. The SFPG recommend “Ten Reasons to Boycott Scottish Farmed Salmon” (http://www.salmonfarmmonitor.org/pr201203notes.shtml) which are enclosed in full below.

On the issue of fat content alone, farmed Scottish salmon is far from healthy. Farmed Scottish salmon on sale in Marks and Spencer, for example, is up to 18% fat compared to 1% for wild Alaskan salmon on sale in the same store. And in Sainsbury’s yesterday there was high fat (15%) farmed Scottish salmon on sale next to low fat wild species such as plaice (3%), cod (1%) and king scallops (0.1%).

Finally, if the Scottish Executive is seriously concerned about promoting healthy eating and a low fat diet, do you agree that the Executives should be investing public funds in the shellfish farming and wild fish sectors, rather than promoting unhealthy, high fat foods such as Scottish farmed salmon?

Yours sincerely,

Don Staniford
Managing Director

FAT, FLABBY AND FARMED

Following the announcement of a £3 million pound public relations campaign (see above) to persuade people to eat more farmed salmon, the Scottish Executive is now supporting a further £4.6 million award to try to ‘improve’ the physical fitness of Scotland’s caged fish.

The cash comes via the Scottish Enterprise ‘Proof of Concept’ project, funded with £33 million pounds over six years. Chief executive Jack Perry said: “Too often in our recent industrial past, Scotland has failed to capitalise on the technological breakthroughs and innovations developed by our universities and research institutions. Invented in Scotland must translate into made in Scotland.”

Glasgow University is being funded to research a fitness programme for farmed fish, essentially an “aquatic aerobics” plan that it is hoped will “help to keep [caged] fish fit and healthy and ultimately boost quality levels and productivity.”

But surely Scotland’s farmed salmon don’t need such drastic treatment? The Scottish Executive, Scottish Quality Salmon, the fish farmers, dozens of learned MP’s and MSP’s, et al, have been telling us for years that Scottish farmed salmon is the finest in the world; tasty, nutritious and delicious and of superb quality.

Sadly, in the dirty business of fish farming the only certainty is that those involved in the industry will bend all the rules, twist all the facts and work endlessly to keep the public as misinformed as possible.