The Salmon Farm Monitor
Guest Column, March 2004
Like all big multimillion pound business the fish farm owners employ spin-doctors to claim that everything they do is for our benefit. They are so good at their job that you will read everywhere that fish farming in Scotland is responsible for creating more than 6,000 jobs. In fact less than 2,000 people are actually employed the other 4,000 allegedly work in ‘associated’ businesses. Don’t believe a word of it. The truth is that wild salmon and trout fishing are much more important to the Scottish economy than fish farms. Visitors pump millions of ponds into the local economy and even the local fishing club in Grantown that I belong to employs a full time river watcher.
It is not just the fish farmers who will lie to us about their product, the Scottish food standards agency is at it too. They spent weeks wasting our money on a big PR campaign telling us that farmed salmon was safe, yet only last week commissioned two separate inquiries into farmed salmon because they are worried about gaps in their knowledge.
My big sadness about the latest report into the dangers of eating farmed salmon was some famous Scottish chiefs being persuaded by the fish farmers to tell us it was safe. Even if that was the case, which it isn’t, any decent chef will tell you that farmed fish is a different and inferior species. As Hugh Whittingstall, who fishes the Findhorn says, ‘The flesh of a farmed fish looks flabby and greasy, and is dyed an unnatural orange. The wild fish is a proper salmon pink, and its flesh is firm, tight and almost dry to touch.’
As someone who has spent many hours in the company of politicians I regret to say that salmon and trout fishing does not very often hit their radar screens. Gordon Brown, I know is well aware of the legislation of fishing and does at least listen to my views. I wish I could say the same about anyone on the Scottish Executive. They go along with the fish farmer’s lies even when it is obvious to almost everyone that fish farming not only damages our health but that of other fish.
Every time I can, on the radio, TV or in print I tell the truth about fish-farming – yes ex spin-doctors can tell the truth. I also enjoy telling people when they say ‘have you any dietary requirements Charlie?’ ‘Yes, I won’t eat farmed salmon.’
I will be returning the compliments of those who delivered wild birds for me to eat. Hopefully it will be with wild salmon and trout caught in the Spey. I would never eat the poisonous farmed stuff so why should I expect others to.
For salmon fishing courses on the River Spey with Charlie Whelan, go to: www.spinfish.co.uk