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An rud bhios na do bhroin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
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'Northern Climes, January 2005'

THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS
ROD McGILL LOOKS BACK ON 2004

JANUARY

A dash of toxin with your salmon, Madam? - Malachite green has been detected in farm fish on sale in UK supermarkets by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. How concerned is the Scottish Executive about the banned toxic chemical in fish produced in Scotland? Replying to SMP Robin Harper, fisheries minister Allan Wilson said: “The Scottish Executive has no functions in relation to testing for residues of veterinary medicines or any subsequent prosecutions.”

FEBRUARY

Don’t mention the ‘F’ word - Dundonnell Smoked Salmon in the West Highlands use farm salmon, but regale punters with details of wild salmon: “Salmo Salar, the North Atlantic Salmon is the King of Fish and is regarded as providing the finest smoked salmon which gives it world wide acclaim… the waters of these remote areas provide the nursery for the emerging salmon eggs. The smolts (young salmon) spend sometimes their first two years in fresh water. Only when they reach a certain size are they able to swim in salt water.”

MARCH

“Filthy” or “Insanitary” Scottish smoked salmon - A number of Scottish suppliers of smoked salmon have earned themselves the distinction of having their products condemned as being ‘filthy’ or ‘insanitary’, according to ‘Import Refusals Reports’ issued by the USA food and drug administration (FDA).

The lucky companies are: Loch Fyne Oysters, Lossie Seafoods, Pinneys, (by Royal Appointment to HM The Queen, suppliers of smoked salmon), Gourmet’s Choice Smoked Salmon, Hand-Made Fish, The Tobermory Fish Company, Inverawe Smokehouses and Farne Salmon & Trout of Berwickshire. Over the last year the US FDA has refused to allow the import of over 260 farmed salmon products from Ireland, Scotland, Norway, and Chile.

APRIL

Jobs for the boys - When the SE was challenged in October to substantiate industry employment figures and to mount an independent inquiry, senior civil servant Gordon Hart said that the figure of 6,500 jobs, based upon a six-year old flawed report, was used only as an “indicator”. By January he had changed his tune, disclosing the existence of another report “completed in late 2003” that allegedly showed that salmon farming supported “in the region of 8,600 full-time jobs”. This report has yet to be published.

MAY

We are what we eat, so enjoy - “Salmonids fed only on beef tallow did not perform well. However, reducing the beef tallow level in the diet by substituting marine oils with high content of PUFA gave superior results by more than doubling weight gain and improving feed conversion.”

“Using pork lard in diets for rainbow trout showed no differences in growth and feed conversion. The combination of pork lard with vegetable oil or the partial replacement of marine oil (e.g. herring oil) results in good performances by rainbow trout fingerlings.” (Handbook on Ingredients for Aquaculture Feeds, Hertramf & Piedad Pascua, 2000)

JUNE

Spinning from the top - At the end of May, just prior to the European elections, the Sunday Post carried an exclusive front page story: Blair moves to protect salmon jobs!

“The Prime Minister has persuaded the EU to introduce measures to prevent Norway from dumping thousands of tonnes of cheap farmed salmon in Europe, under-cutting Scottish prices and putting Scottish firms out of business.”

This was, of course, complete nonsense, as was confirmed next day when a Scottish Executive (SE) spokesman said: “Negotiations between the EU and other member states are continuing. No decision has been taken.”

JULY

All according to plan - The disaster that has overtaken Scotland’s west coast salmon and sea-trout didn’t happen by accident. It was planned, secretly planned in the 1980’s by Scottish civil servants and fishery scientists in collaboration with fish farmers and the Crown Estate and confirmed by Brian Simpson, CEO of ‘Scottish Quality Salmon’. During a BBC Radio programme he boasted that Scotland had being doing that for years - keeping fish farms in the west to protect the wild stocks in the east.

AUGUST

Blooming natural - Prior to the expansion of fish farming in the late 1980’s, there had only been one record of a toxic algal bloom anywhere in the West Highlands and Islands. Since then, vast areas of west coast waters are closed to shellfish farming because of toxic blooms that poison shellfish.

The Scottish Executive deny that fish farm pollution causes them Instead, they have become engaged in a spiral of half-truths and increasingly unbelievable government funded public relations exercises to try to hide the facts and persuade the public to keep on buying and eating what is in my view an unhealthy, contaminated product.

SEPTEMBER

The beginning of the end of salmon farming in Scotland? - Helge Midttun, boss of the Norwegian company who own Fjord Seafood Scotland has warned that his company is looking elsewhere to expand their business: “Norway and Chile are the two areas where we see opportunities, because the framework for salmon farming is better [than in Scotland]. At the moment, costs in Scotland are far too high…. If I had £1 million pounds to invest I would invest it in Chile first, Norway second and Scotland third,” he said.

OCTOBER

Meanwhile - the industry, reeling from the impact of the USA report that fingered Scottish farmed salmon as the most PCB contaminated in the world, has found comfort in a survey which showed that in the aftermath of the publication of the USA report, UK consumption of farmed salmon actually rose.

Brian Simpson, CEO of Scottish Quality Salmon, claimed, “Despite a degree of media hysteria at the time, British shoppers have shown themselves to be pretty sensible in evaluating this food scare.” Mr Simpson avoided mention of the fact that SQS itself had commissioned the study.

NOVEMBER

Trouble ahead - The Tripartite Group has called for a pilot relocation [of a fish farm] “to test the impact of the removal of salmon farming from a significant sea-loch/wild fishery,” all of which is very bad news for the fish farmers and their friends in the Scottish Executive.

The last thing the SE can afford to allow is the emergence of proof-positive that fish farm sea lice are killing wild fish: there would be a flood of compensation claims and the industry would become even more unsustainable than it is at present.

DECEMBER

Humble-pie time - Slice, when first introduced, was hailed as being the miracle treatment for curing fish farm sea lice infestations. It now seems that it ain’t necessarily so. A report by Dr John Watt of Lochaber Fisheries Trust published in June 2003 stated: “Despite high hopes, the use of Slice has failed to prevent high levels of infection on wild fish.”

Rod McGill