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International News, August 2006

  • Ireland - EU confirms Irish drift netting for salmon to end
  • British Columbia – First Nations pledge to fight fish farms
  • North Sea and Skagerrak – more sandeel fishing
  • Norway – Norwegian farm salmon flood into UK
  • Chile – Mainstream breach permitted production levels
  • Australia – Sustainable Seafood Guide published

Ireland - EU confirms Irish drift netting for salmon will end

At the annual general meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation held in Finland on 8th June, Mr Alan Gray, head of the EU delegation, announced that Ireland had “given a firm commitment to meet scientific advice in 2007 which means that fisheries will only take place in estuaries and rivers on stocks which have been shown to above their conservation limit.”

Commenting on the announcement, Naill Green, chairman of Stop Drift Nets Now (www.stopnow.ie) said, “We welcome this further affirmation of the Irish Government’s intention to end drift netting at the conclusion of the current season. The 2006 report of the Standing Scientific Committee of the National Salmon Commission has made it clear that the continuing of mixed stock fishing is incompatible with the science based approach to the management of our salmon stocks.”

British Columbia – First Nations pledge to fight fish farms

Mark Hume, writing in the Vancouver paper the Globe and Mail, reports that a government committee examining the aquaculture industry is to begin a tour of several northern communities where fish farming is increasingly controversial. Members of four first nations have promised to greet the committee with protest banners and drummers as they step up their campaign to keep fish farms away from the approach waters of the Skeena and Nass rivers.

Glen Williams, a spokesman for the Gitanyow First Nation said: “We’ve heard a potential 10 to 17 farms have been proposed for the mouth of the Skeena and Nass. Our main concern is that wild smolts migrating out of the watershed would end up going past those fish farms, getting infested with sea lice, and that the adult salmon returning would also have to go by them when they return to spawn. We rely on wild salmon for survival and we are not just going to let this take place in our territory,” he said.

North Sea and Skagerrak – more sandeel fishing

In spite of continuing concern about a dramatic decline in sandeel stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak in recent years, the European Commission has reopened the fishery and set a total allowable catch level for 2006 at 300,000 tonnes. Sandeels have an average lifespan of 5 years and do not reach sexual maturity until their 3rd year. Much of the sandeel fishery effort predates upon fish in their 1st and 2nd years, before they have had the chance to spawn.

Concern has been expressed about the impact that the sandeel decline has had on the status of other species, such as wild salmon and sea-trout and other species of fish and seabirds that rely upon sandeels for their survival. The sandeel fishery is thought to have been a major contributory factor in the collapse in wild salmonid numbers and widespread breeding failures amongst seabirds. Commercial exploitation of a species at the base of the food chain removes a key element from the structure of the marine ecosystem.

Norway – Norwegian farm salmon flood into UK

Reports from the industry online news service IntraFish (www.intrafish.com) suggest that exports of Norwegian farm salmon are flooding onto the UK market at a rate twice as high as 2005 levels. It is estimated that 15,000 tons have arrived so far this year compared to 9,000 tons in 2005.

Anecdotal evidence from supermarkets shoppers seems to suggest, however, that the increase in farm salmon consumption reported by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (“Demand has never been higher for salmon, with a million new consumers coming into the market in the year to the end of 2005”, Julie Edgar, SSPO) is being fuelled by the availability of inexpensive Norwegian fish, rather than by Scottish-produced farm salmon.

Chile – Mainstream breach permitted production levels

The Norwegian-owned fish farmer Mainstream has been accused of breaking its permitted production levels at smolt-rearing sites in Southern Chile. The information was released by the 10th Region Environmental Commission as part of the start of a process to sanction the Norwegain multi-national and other national companies involved in similar offences.

Centro Ecoceanos, a Chilean environmental group (www.ecoceanos.cl), noted that “the companies all belong to the ‘Clean Production Agreement’ and the ‘Integrated Management System’; seen as tools through which the Chilean salmon industry could demonstrate sound environmental and social practices and as such avoid the constant denouncements over illegal work practices and environmental damage.”

According to Centro Ecoceanos, Mainstream produced 4,621 tons of farmed salmon at Vilupulli, 40% above the permitted maximum, whilst at its Cheñique site it produced 1,990 tons of farmed salmon, 140% over its authorised production level of 806 tons.

A spokesman for Centro Ecoceanos said that the situation “…constitutes and a new call to Norwegian politicians, citizens and state for the necessity to control those environmental, legal and social activities of Norwegian salmon affiliates in the South of Chile, which would not be allowed in Norway herself.”

Australia – Sustainable Seafood Guide published

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (see also this month’s guest column) has published the country’s first consumer guide to choosing seafood wisely. The guide is packed with useful information about ‘better choice’ seafood species, labelling, imports, health and aquaculture and much more.

Jim Winton, patron of the Society, said, “We [Australians] sell ourselves abroad as a nation of swimmers, surfers and anglers, a people of youth and vigour and sunshine and there is a kernel of truth to it. In reality many of us do have genuine beach habits. But a lot of us value more than just a coastal view: we love the sea itself. As a fisher and a father and a passionate consumer of seafood, I commend this guide to you and congratulate the Australian Marine Conservation Society for having made it available.”

Page 13 of the guide deals with Atlantic Salmon: “ SAY NO – concerns include, but are not limited to: fish escapes which release large carnivorous predators into natural food chains and ecosystems; it takes 2-4kg of wild fish to grow 1kg of farmed salmon; potential for disease and pest introductions to local waterways; interaction of farms with native wildlife; water pollution; ACMS does not support open-system sea-cage aquaculture; Marine Stewardship Council tinned salmon from Alaska and wild-caught Australian salmon represent better seafood choices. More information is available online from: www.amcs.org.au