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News From Around the Fish Farms, March 2003


The West Highland Free Press, New Labour's Scottish bastion of impartial reporting and scourge of all who dare question fish farm practice, has incorrectly identified Bruce Sandison, chairman of the 'Salmon Farm Protest Group', an organisation dedicated to protecting wild salmonids from fish farm disease and pollution, as being: "Bruce Sandison, general manager of the Shetland Salmon Farmers Association", an organisation dedicated to promoting fish farming.

When questioned about this Freudian slip, WHFP editor Ian McCormack insisted that he had checked it out and that there was 'another' Bruce Sandison who was indeed general manager of the SSFA. Sorry, Ian, you couldn't be more wrong: the general manager of the SSFA is David Sandison, not Bruce Sandison. No doubt we will we read all about this embarrassing slip-up in the WHFP satire-spot, the 'Phrase Shed'?


Before Christmas the West Highland Free Press ran a 'Reader Offer' featuring Isle of Skye Smoked Salmon, "Delicious, top quality smoked salmon packs. the perfect Christmas gift idea." Presumably, prior to launching their perfect Christmas gift idea the WHFP had full product knowledge of what it was they were offering readers?

Salmon Farm Protest Group chairman Bruce Sandison tried to find out. In an email to WHPF editor Ian McCormack he asked if the salmon was farmed, and, if so, which farm the fish had came from, and if any artificial flavouring or colourants had been used in the smoking process? In the absence of any reply, this request for information was repeated over a period of two months, but to no avail.

Finally, in a telephone conversation (24th Feb) with WHFP editor, Ian McCormack, Sandison was told to "..ask the company [Skye Smoked Salmon]". Why couldn't the WHFP answer these questions? After all they were the ones asking people to buy the product? McCormack replied: "I'm not prepared to spend the time finding out about this." Are we to believe then that the WHFP don't have a clue about the products they try to persuade readers to buy, and can't even be bothered to find out?


When fish farmer Aquascot applied to the Crown Estate to expand one of their farms at Woodwick Bay in Orkney, the proposal was met with a storm of protest from the local community and conservation groups. Orkney Trout Fishing Association also objected because the farm was sited uncomfortably close to Woodwick Burn, a sea-trout spawning stream. Aquascot denied that their plans would impinge upon the scenic beauty of the area or damage wild sea-trout stocks. Amazingly, for once, the Crown Estate and the Scottish Executive disagreed and refused the Aquascot application.


Marine Harvest says that no antibiotics were used on any of the company's 43 Scottish farms during 2002 to treat fish disease. Spokesman Steve Bracken said: " We do need to have access to antibiotics but we only use them as a last resort.This clearly shows how we, as an industry have improved husbandry and fish farm management." The company insists that their use of other drugs is minimal, to help to maintain "a clean and healthy" environment. Independent verification of these claims is not available.


Scottish Sea Farms is to re-open its fish farm at Fiunary on the Sound of Mull, close to the mouth of Loch Aline. The cages lie on the route of salmonids returning to the River Aline, once a desirable salmon and sea-trout fishery, now virtually devoid of these species. Perhaps the smolts will come from rearing cages in Loch Arienas, a headwater loch of the Aline catchment? Ardtornish Estate, owners of the River Aline, gave permission for cages in Loch Arienas more than a decade ago, presumably because fish farming is worth more to the estate than rod and line salmon and sea-trout fishing?


Fish farmers Lighthouse of Scotland 'mislaid' one of their pontoons in January. The structure, 20ft x 30ft, broke loose from its mooring in Portree Bay, Skye and drifted off across the Minch apparently unnoticed by Lighthouse staff. Neither was the incident reported to the appropriate authorities, but, I suppose, if they were all looking the other way at the time, how could they have reported the incident?

The pontoon eventually came ashore four days later at Melvaig, near Gairloch in Wester Ross. According to a local report, it housed five buoyancy tanks on which there were labels indicating that they contained fish farm chemicals, but upon inspection the tanks were found to be full of dead fish. Nothing further has been heard about the incident, either from Lighthouse or from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.


The Scottish Executives (SE) daft strategic framework for aquaculture was 'aired' at a conference in Shetland 24th January. The SE claims that the framework (see archive for full details) was produced by an all-interests committee, including representatives from wild fish organizations. In truth, only one out of 24 of the members of the committee had any direct involvement with wild fish. However, WWF Scotland director Simon Pepper was there, representing Scottish Environment Link, a conglomerate of environmental bodies all of whom have serious concerns about the impact fish farm disease and pollution is having on wild fish. So, how did Simon shape up? According to a report on the conference published in the Shetland Times, our boy done good but, sadly, not for us, but for the fish farmers: "Mr Pepper. stated that WWF was not against controlled expansion of aquaculture and that it believed the Scottish industry was not far off demonstrating that it was sustainable. The stance sets WWF apart from groups, like the Friends of the Earth, who support a ban on further development and have conducted a prolonged and emotive campaign through the media in Scotland." Nice one, Simon.