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News From Around the Fish Farms, October 2003

How many farm salmon really escape each year?

Farm salmon escape from their cages. In the last four years according to Scottish Executive statistics more than 1 million have done so. The problems they cause wild fish are well documented and understood. Mark Bowler, publishing editor of the magazine FlyFishing and Fly Tying addresses some of these issues in this month’s guest column.

But how accurate are these figures - an average of 250,000 escapes each year for four years? Given the close working relationship between the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) and the fish farmers (see letter from SEERAD official Paul Shave in this month’s monitor), it is difficult to have confidence in anything SEERAD says about this industry.

It is only in recent years that fish farmers have been required by law to report escapes. Do all farmers do so? And do they accurately record the numbers involved? Quite frankly, there is no way of knowing. Once again, as with so many other aspects of this dirty business, SEERAD relies largely upon information provided to them by the industry itself. What is beyond doubt, however, is that escapee farm salmon now outnumber wild fish in the North Atlantic by almost 50 to 1.

As such, it may well be that fake salmon escapes are being grossly under-reported. This seems to be confirmed by statements made by Lord Jamie Lindsay, former Scottish Office minister with responsibility for salmon farming, now Chairman of Scottish Quality Salmon (SQS) - the body that represents Scotland’s largest producers of farm salmon. According to Lord Lindsay, only 1% of farm fish escape each year. This claim has also been echoed by SQS managing director, Brian Simpson.

In the four years 1999/2002 the industry produced 538,000 tonnes of farm salmon (Scottish Fishery Statistics), approximately 250 million individual fish. If, as SQS say, only 1% of these fish escaped from their cages, might this not suggest that in the last four years the true number of escapes could have be in the order of 2.5 million fish, more than double the number reported by SEERAD?

Nothing more clearly underlines our belief that this industry must be brought onshore and continued in land-based closed-containment systems. No escapes. No damage to Scotland’s dwindling stocks of wild salmon and sea-trout. But this won’t happen. Why not? SEERAD official Paul Shave explains: “Land based tank farming was the way the industry began and given the energy costs associated with it, pump ashore facilities are now totally uneconomic for salmonid on-growing.”

In other words, economically, the industry would be unable to survive unless SEERAD allowed them freedom to pollute our costal waters and to destroy our wild fish. With friends like these Scotland’s beleaguered wild salmon and sea-trout certainly don’t need any more enemies, and with industry apologists of the caliber of SEERAD the fish farmers certainly couldn’t find better friends.

Rainbow warriors

Not only farm salmon escape, but so also do rainbow trout. There is hardly a major river or loch system in Scotland that is not now infested to some degree with these foreign invaders. Rainbow trout are notorious for their ability to do a runner and given the proliferation of put-and-take rainbow trout fisheries throughout the land this was always going to be a disaster waiting to happen.

Some of these fish are triploid, sexless, and it is claimed therefore that they do not present a threat to Scotland’s native species, wild brown trout, Arctic charr, grayling, sea-trout and salmon. But not all stocked rainbow trout are triploid and sooner rather than later a breeding population of escapee rainbow trout will establish themselves. Love invariably finds a way and this has happened in other countries where rainbow trout have been introduced, such as in Chile, Argentine and New Zealand.

But an ever-increasing number of rainbow trout are being raised in cages for sale to catering establishments and supermarket customers. In 1992, four thousand tonnes were produced, last year this had risen to nearly seven thousand tonnes. If anything, rainbow trout are even more densely packed into their cages than farm salmon are. There they face the same disease problems as their larger cousins, and impact just as disastrously on the environment as do fake salmon.

Triploid or not, when they escape, they seek out a natural spawning habitat where they displace wild fish and eat their eggs. Naturally more aggressive than wild brown trout, they become the dominant species and eventually rule their domain. Nobody knows just how many have already escaped into the wild, perhaps several million. 500,000 farm rainbow trout escaped into Loch Awe in Argyll some years ago and there have been reports of rainbow trout running the River Fyne, also in Argyll.

Most recently, farm rainbow trout have been turning up in a small stream to the south of Oban, the River Nell. In September a local angler caught half a dozen, all weighing in the region of 1lb, and was puzzled as to where they had come from. I believe that they must have come from cages in Loch Etive where rainbow trout are reared for sale to some of the UK’s leading supermarkets; labelled of course as being sourced from the clean and unpolluted waters of a Scottish sea loch.

If this trend continues, then I might live to regret my comment above about Scotland’s wild salmon and sea-trout not needing any more enemies. They only way to prevent this from happening is to deal with rainbow trout farming in exactly the way that the Salmon Farm Protest Group propose for salmon farming. Get these cages out of the water and into closed containment systems. And do it now.

NO ANSWER ABOUT MALACHITE GREEN FROM NEUTRECO, THE WORLD’S LEADING FARM SALMON PRODUCERS

In recent weeks shipments of farm salmon from Chile have been detained at ports of entry in Holland, Spain and Japan. In Holland, four container-loads of Chilean farm fish were confiscated because of unacceptable levels of the banned chemical Malachite Green, whilst in Spain one load was rejected for the same reason. The incident in Japan involved unacceptably high levels of antibiotics.

As yet, however, the identity of Chilean companies who exported the fish has been withheld by Chilean authorities pending a court investigation of how the banned substance came to be used. However, the Dutch multi-national conglomerate Nutreco operates several fish farm sites in Chile through its wholly owned subsidiary Marine Harvest, who are also the largest produce of farm fish in Scotland.

SFPG has asked Nutreco if their Chilean operators supplied any of the fish that were detained. Three weeks on, and SFPG still awaits a response:

 From: "Bruce Sandison" <bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk>

To: <corpcomm@nutreco.com>

Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2003 2:01 PM

Subject: For the attention of Mr Frank van Ooijen, please

 

Dear Mr van Ooijen
 
Can you tell me please if any of the farm salmon products sourced from Chile
and recently detained at Rotterdam, Bilbao and in Japan came from Marine
Harvest sites in Chile?
 
Yours sincerely
 
Bruce Sandison
Chairman, Salmon Farm Protest Group
www.salmonfarmmonitor.org


*********

 

From: "Bruce Sandison" <bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk>

To: <corpcomm@nutreco.com>

 

Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 7:32 AM

Subject: Fw: For the attention of Mr Frank van Ooijen, please

 

Dear Mr van Ooijen
 
I wonder if I might have a reply to my recent email message, please?


Yours sincerely
 
Bruce Sandison
Chairman, Salmon Farm Protest Group

www.salmonfarmmonitor.org

Meanwhile, across the ‘pond’, Canadian and United States authorities have begun testing farm salmon and other seafood for the presence of this cancer-causing chemical. Glenn McGregor of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said, “The rate of incidence [of dangerous substances in a survey of samples] was high enough that we’ve decided to get into regular inspection and controls.”

And as if to confirm yet again what everyone thinks about the relationship between the Scottish Executive and the fish farmers, when MSP Robin Harper asked Alan Wilson, the SEERAD minister with responsibility for fish farming about malachite green usage in Scotland, the minister’s response was less that helpful: “The Scottish Executive has no functions in relation to testing for residues of veterinary medicines…” So that’s all right then, isn’t it?

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHAT YOUR GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT BE EATING? ASK YOUR HEALTHY LIVING ADVISOR!

 

The Scottish Executive is running a Healthy Living campaign, designed to promote healthy eating advice and to improve the general health and fitness of the populace. As a grandfather blessed with eight grandchildren, and given my concern about the safety of eating farm salmon, I decided to accept their invitation to ‘ask the experts’ at www.healthyliving.gov.uk about my concerns. Would you be reassured?

 

***********************************************************************

 -----Original Message-----


From: bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk
Sent: 30 August 2003 18:00


To: Hlquestions
Subject: Healthy Living - email the expert

This information was sent on 30/08/2003

Name : Bruce Sandison
Age : 55+
Sex : male
Postcode : IV27 4X


Question : I have eight grandchildren. Can you tell me, please, is it safe for them to eat more than two portions of farmed salmon each week? I asked this question, by email, about ten days ago but have not received any reply yet?


Bruce Sandison

Do you eat fruit, vegetables or salad (not including potatoes) every day? : yes
How did you find out about this site? : Newspaper

 

***********************************************************************************
----- Original Message -----

From: Hlquestions

To: bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk

 

Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2003 1:52 PM

Subject: RE: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Mr Sandison,

 

Many thanks for your e-mail regarding fish for your grand-children. Unfortunately we had not received your previous e-mail.

 

In reply to your question, I cannot think of any reason why your grandchildren should not be having farmed salmon.

 

It is recommended that we all eat 2 servings of fish each week, of which one should be an oil-rich fish. The oil-rich fish include salmon, tuna, pilchards, sprats, anchovies, sardines, mackerel and herring, and they may be fresh or tinned. The oil contained in fish is called "Omega-3" and has a protective effect against heart disease. Fish is also a good source of protein and B-vitamins, Vitamins A & D, and the minerals Calcium and Phosphorous (which are important for bones and teeth)

 

If you are concerned about the safety of fish, I would recommend the following website: www.foodstandards.gov.uk/safereating/foodadvice/fish – this is the website of the Food Standards Agency and contains good information.

 

If you would like some recipes containing fish, the Sea Fish Industry Authority produces some good booklets and recipes on-line: they can be contacted on 0131 558 3331, website www.seafish.co.uk

Hope this helps! Please do not hesitate to get back in touch if there’s anything further we can help with

 

Kind regards,

 

Healthy Living Advisor.

 

**********************************************************************************

-----Original Message-----


From: Bruce Sandison
Sent: 30 August 2003 14:10


To: Hlquestions
Subject: Re: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Healthy Living Advisor

 

Many thanks for your prompt response. However, my question was - is it safe for my grand children to eat MORE than 2 portions of farmed salmon each week? There are continuing reports about PCB's, dioxins, and cancer-causing substances (such as malachite green) and radio active wastes (such as Technetium 99) being detected in farm salmon. I have no concern about my grandchildren eating wild salmon, or other oily fish, only about farmed salmon. Hope you can help, please?

 

Bruce Sandison

 

***********************************************************************************

 

 --- Original Message -----

 

From: Hlquestions

To: Bruce Sandison

 

Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2003 4:19 PM

Subject: RE: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Mr Sandison,

 

Thank you again for your e-mail. I’m afraid that I am unable to assist you further with your query about farmed fish. If you require further clarification of the food safety issue I would suggest you contact the Food Standards Agency for clearer guidance on eating farmed fish – we are guided by them in the advice we give, so they would be your best point of contact. Their e-mail address is: www.foodstandards.gov.uk.

 

Kind regards,

Healthy Living Advisor.

 

***********************************************************************************

-----Original Message-----


From: Bruce Sandison
Sent: 02 September 2003 17:36


To: Hlquestions
Subject: Re: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Healthy Living Advisor

 

In your initial response to my question about whether or not it is safe for my grandchildren to eat more than 2 portions of farm salmon a week you said, "I cannot think of any reason why your grandchildren should not be having farmed salmon." 

 

You also said, "Please do not hesitate to get back in touch if there is anything further we can help with."

 

Suddenly, you now tell me to speak to the Food Standards Agency!  I am confused.

 

If you don't know the answer to my question, why invite me to "ask the experts" in the first place?

 

You say, " - we are guided by them [Food Standards Agency] in the advice we give."  Why can't you ask the Food Standards Agency for advice on my behalf?

 

Bruce Sandison

 

***********************************************************************************

----- Original Message -----

 

From: Hlquestions

To: Bruce Sandison

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2003 7:06 PM

Subject: RE: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Mr Sandison,

 

Thank you for your further e-mail.  I am sorry you are disappointed with the previous response.

 

The information I provided you with was obtained from the Food Standards Agency website, which is the main authority for such issues. I passed the website details onto you as I thought you may you wish to look at the information yourself.

 

I am currently awaiting a response from the Food Standards Agency about your particular concerns, and will pass any relevant information onto you should it become available.

 

If you are still not satisfied about the safety of farmed salmon for your grand-children, you may wish to avoid this food and choose fresh salmon instead.

 

Kind regards,

Healthy Living Advisor.

 

***********************************************************************************

-----Original Message-----


From: Bruce Sandison
Sent: 06 September 2003 15:51


To: Hlquestions
Subject: Re: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Healthy Living Advisor

 

I look forward to receiving further advice from you when the Food Standards Agency responds to your request for clarification about whether or not it is safe/healthy for my grandchildren to eat more that two portions of farmed salmon a week. Thank you for your continuing help in this matter.

 

However, I have had a look in my local supermarkets and none of them seem to sell fresh salmon, other than tinned wild salmon from Alaska. Is this a healthy option for my grand-children, please? If not, can you tell me where I might be able to buy fresh wild salmon?

 

It would also be good to communicate with you by name? Is this possible, please? After all, you have my name, address, telephone number, age, and details about my eating habits. Are you allowed to disclose you name? Otherwise, it all sounds a bit like '1984' or the 'Brave New World', doesn't it!

 

Best wishes

 

Bruce Sandison

 

***********************************************************************************

----- Original Message -----

 

From: Hlquestions

To: Bruce Sandison

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 2:23 PM

Subject: RE: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Mr. Sandison,

 

Thank you for your patience.  I have received relevant information from the Food Standards Agency, which I hope will answer your enquiry regarding farmed and wild salmon, including other types of fish.  If you should have any further enquiries regarding regulations and safety of fish, you may contact Karen Knowles, Food Standards Agency - her contact details are given below.

 

'Fish and shellfish are a valuable source of protein, vitamins and minerals. As part of a healthy diet, we should aim for at least two servings of fish a week, at least one of which should be oily. The benefits of eating two portions of fish a week outweigh any potential risks to health which may be caused by contaminants'.

 

'European Commission Regulation 466/2001, as amended, sets limits for certain contaminants in a range of foodstuffs, including fish. The Regulation sets limits for contaminants such as lead, cadmium, mercury and dioxins. All fish produced for sale in the EU, whether farmed or wild, are required to meet the limits set in the Regulation. The Regulation is implemented in Scotland under The Contaminants in Food (Scotland) Regulations 2003'.

 

'In order to ensure that its advice is based on the most up to date scientific information, the Food Standards Agency also carries out food surveys. Recent relevant surveys are reported in the following

Food Survey Information Sheets':

 

FSIS No 38/03 - Dioxins and Dioxin-like PCBs in the UK diet 2001: Total diet study samples

FSIS No 31/02 - PAHs in the UK diet 2000: Total diet study samples,

MAFF JFSSG Food Information Sheet No 184 - Dioxins and PCBs in UK and Imported Marine Fish.

Copies of the Information sheets are available from our website http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/

 

If you have further queries about contaminants in fish, please contact Karen Knowles at Food Standards Agency Scotland - e-mail: karen.knowles@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

 

Kind regards,

Healthy Living Advisor.

 

***********************************************************************************

From: Bruce Sandison

To: Hlquestions ; karen.knowles@foodstandards.qsi.gov.uk

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 3:06 PM

Subject: Re: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Karen

 

My Healthy Living Advisor - I'm sorry, but that is the only 'name' I have for the person I have been corresponding with as he/she does not seem to be allowed to disclose their identity - has said that I should contact you in connection with the question I asked about whether or not it is safe/healthy for my grandchildren to eat more than two portions of farm salmon each week (see copy of all correspondence below).

 

You say, "As part of a healthy diet, we should aim for at least two servings of fish a week, at least one of which should be oily. The benefits of eating two portions of fish a week outweigh any potential risks to health which may be caused by contaminants".

 

With respect, this is not what I asked. I asked if it was safe/healthy for my grand-children to eat MORE that two portions of farmed salmon each week. Since the 'experts' at Healthy Living don't seem to be able to answer this question, can you answer it for me, please?

 

Yours sincerely

 

Bruce Sandison

 

***********************************************************************************

----- Original Message -----

 

From: Bruce Sandison

To: Hlquestions ; karen.knowles@foodstandards.qsi.gov.uk

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 6:39 PM

Subject: Re: Healthy Living - email the expert

 

Dear Healthy Living Advisor

 

Sorry for bothering you again. I took your advice and emailed the Food Standards Agency with my question on 10th September. So far, I have not received a reply. Could you be so kind as to confirm that the email address you gave me for Ms Knowles (karen.knowles@foodstandards.qsi.gov.uk) is accurate?

 

Best wishes

 

Bruce Sandison

 

***********************************************************************************

 

----- Original Message -----

From: <karen.knowles@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk>

To: "Bruce Sandison" <bruce@hysbackie.freeserve.co.uk>

 

Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:42 AM

Subject: Re: Healthy Living/farmed salmon question

 

Dear Mr Sandison,
 
Please see the attached letter in response to your e-mail of 10 September.
 

(See attached file: Sandison letter.doc)
 
If you have any problems opening the attachment please contact me.
 

Yours sincerely
 
Karen Knowles
 
Novel Foods, Contaminants and Emergency Planning
Food Standards Agency Scotland

 

**********************************************************************************

 

LETTER FROM THE FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY

 

Mr Bruce Sandison

By e-mail

 

23 September 2003                                   

 

Dear Mr Sandison,                        

 

CONTAMINANTS IN FISH

 

Thank you for your e-mail of 10 September in which you asked whether your grandchildren could eat more than two portions of farmed salmon per week. You also expressed concerns about dioxins and PCBs, technetium-99 and malachite green.

 

As you are aware, the Food Standards Agency’s advice is that as part of a healthy, balanced and varied diet, people should eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. This is our advice to adults – including pregnant women – and children too.

 

Higher level consumption is a matter of personal choice, but regular consumption of more than two portions of oily fish a week will lead to increased exposure to the particular contaminants present in these fish. The Agency does not recommend extreme consumption of any type of food.

 

Dioxins and PCBs

 

Oily fish (along with other fat-containing foods such as meat, milk and eggs) contains low levels of dioxins and PCBs. A recent Agency survey indicates that levels of these contaminants in food have fallen by around 50% over 3 years. The details of this survey – dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the UK diet: 2001 Total Diet Study samples (FSIS No 38/03) are available from our web-site at http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsis-2003/fsis382003.

 

The effects of dioxins are due to the build-up of these chemicals in the body over many years. Exceeding the safety guideline occasionally will have no effect on the total amount of dioxins in the body.  Exceeding the safety guideline over longer periods will lead to increased amounts in the body, but it is not inevitably harmful.

 

There will be differences in individual susceptibility to the harmful effects of dioxins, depending on each person’s biological characteristics, their overall eating habits and other lifestyle factors.  It is not feasible to provide advice that is specific to each person, rather the advice is intended to protect even the most susceptible members of the population.

 

Technetium-99

 

The Agency, in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) carried out a survey in July 2003 to determine the concentration of technetium-99 (Tc-99) and other radionuclides in farmed salmon from Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The results were compared to radionuclide concentrations in a range of wild fish species sampled during routine surveys in Scottish and Northern Irish coastal waters.  The results from this survey show that the levels of radioactivity in farmed salmon are similar to those in wild fish and consumption of these fish gives no cause for concern. More details about this survey can be found on our web-site at: http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsis-2003/fsis392003

 

Malachite Green

 

The Agency is aware that DEFRA and SEERAD are taking action with the fish industry to ensure that farmed salmon and trout are free from residues of malachite green. This action is important because malachite green should not be used in fish farming as independent scientific experts have advised that it has not been proven safe for this use. Given this action, together with a rigorous sampling programme to ensure that any fish in the production pipeline are either free from residues of malachite green or removed from sale, there is no reason for consumers to change their diets.

 

I hope that this information has been helpful.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Karen Knowles

 

Novel Foods, Contaminants and Emergency Planning

Food Standards Agency Scotland