The Salmon Farm Monitor
‘Northern Climes’, July 2002
In May, Andy Rosie, Scottish environment pollution agency (Seap) north region boss man, told a packed Gairloch protest meeting, concerned about fish farm damage in the West Highlands of Scotland, that his agency only approved the use of 'safe' chemicals to dose farm salmon infested with blood-sucking sea lice.
Apart, that is, from approving hundreds of applications for the use of the cancer-causing organophosphate, dichclorvos, the inherent dangers of which somehow or other managed to elude Seap’s careful scrutiny for many years. Still, let's be fair, we all make mistakes and nobody, not even Seap is perfect?
However, it now seems that Seap's approval of further 250 applications for the use of cypermethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid pesticide 'wonder-cure' for sea lice infestations, is similarly flawed. At least it is according to A Moore and C Waring of the centre for environment, fisheries and aqaculture science at the Lowestoft laboratory in Suffolk, writing in the marine pollution bulletin (Vol 42, No 6 pp 433-444).
They claim that pyrethroids are up to 1,000 times more toxic to fish than to mammals and birds at comparable concentrations; that synthetic pyerthroid insecticides (used to treat scab on sheep and to prevent ticks) may reduce the homing abilities of wild adult salmon; that low levels of the pesticide reduced fertilisation rates in wild salmon eggs; that sub-lethal levels of cypermethrin may have a long-term impact on wild Atlantic salmon population by interfering with some aspects of reproduction.
But all that is in the past! Seap is far too busy just now approving the use of the latest sea lice control 'wonder drug', trade name Slice, to bother about damage caused by dichclorvos and cypermethrin! Seap insist Slice is perfectly safe and will have no impact whatsoever upon wild fish or upon the marine environment. But will Seap make the evidence of their research available for public scrutiny?
Not according to Seap's masters, the fish-farm-hugging Scottish Executive. A standard letter, signed by Toby Willison, sent out to all those asking for clarification says: " You will understand that the Executive seeks advice on the basis that it will be confidential, and appreciate that our advisors might otherwise be inhibited in giving full and frank consideration to such issues. The Executive is advised that keeping such information confidential is in accordance with relevant legal criteria." Yes, minister.
Dr Andy Walker of the Freshwater Fisheries Research Laboratory in Pitlochry had been invited to attend the meeting. Dr Walker’s knowledge of the impact of sea lice on wild salmonids is extensive – he has been researching the subject for more than a decade – and, clearly he would have had a lot to contribute to such a debate. This request was referred to Dr Walker’s superior, Dr Ron Stagg, Principal Officer at the Fisheries Research Service HQ in Aberdeen for his determination.
Dr Stagg felt compelled to seek clarification on whether or not to approve the invitation. He contacted his civil service master in the Scottish Executive (SE), Ms Jinny Huchison, Head of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Division in Edinburgh. After due consideration, Jinny said "no", on the grounds that were Dr Walker to attend it might ‘compromise’ the public nature of the meeting. (eh? Ed.) However, such qualms did not prevent SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage and Highland Council from turning out in force to support their factory salmon farming chums.
SE fisheries scientists are scared witless to tell the truth about the damage the filthy business of fish farming has done to wild salmonids and to West Highland and Island coastal waters. Why? Because if they "blew the whistle" they would be sacked quicker than you can say Ross Finny. But they know where the bodies are buried. Readers may remember the last time Dr Walker tried to speak out, during the showing of the BBC TV programme ‘Warnings from the Wild’, when a SE ‘minder’ quickly closed down the interview, claiming that sea lice was not Dr Walker’s ‘expertise’.
Meanwhile, I can exclusively reveal that the secretive ‘Sea Trout Group’ still exists! Well, at least one member does. During the Gairloch meeting a member of the audience stood up and announced: "My name is Keith Dunbar and I represent the ‘Sea Trout Group’. So, there you have it, anyone who wants to know what happened to the money they donated to the Group’s fatuous fighting fund should immediately contact Mr Dunbar without delay c/o Summer Isles Food Limited, The Smokehouse, Achiltibuie, Tel: 01854 622353. Best of luck when you do!
Finally, and grudgingly, I sent off my £20.00 cheque to renew my subscription to the Scottish Anglers’ National Association. Heaven knows why? For all the good they have done in connection with fighting to save Scotland’s wild salmon and sea-trout I might just as well have chucked the cash down the drain. They have completely failed to provide leadership, where leadership is so needed. They have consorted endlessly with the Scottish Executive and the fish farmers to no avail. And now they have elected as their President the very man who was instrumental in approving the use of dichclorvos and cypermethrin in Scottish fish farms
READ IN FULL THE SEA TROUT GROUP’S CUTTING CONTRIBUTION AT THE GAIRLOCH PROTEST MEETING ABOUT SALMON FARM DAMAGE TO WILD FISH STOCKS!
"My name is Keith Dunbar and I represent the Sea Trout Group. The salmon farming industry suffered from low prices over the last twelve months. Small operators lost their shirts. In another capacity I spent a lot of time myself speaking to chefs – fish buyers in the top end of the retail trade such as Harrods and Selfridges. And I know and can report that the disinterest in salmon is accelerating. People are bored with it. Chefs don’t want to know about it. I feel that salmon have not much further to go.
Now we are grappling for a way forward. The problem is the concentration on salmon and the salmon lice they produce. Aquaculture per se, some people may have objections to it. It is a lesser problem than salmon farming. Now, as of this week, salmon cutlets are £35 a stone, which if my arithmetic is correct is £5.50p a kilo. In other words salmon is about 50% or 60% the cost of haddock.
Where does this point you? It points you to what Jamie [Macgregor, MSP] mentioned – OTHER SPECIES – and I think I would like to ask the Scottish Executive to do all they can to diversify away from salmon to other species like halibut, like cod, like haddock. My goodness, wouldn’t they be happy with twice the revenue per tonne of fish, for haddock instead of salmon!"