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'Northern Climes, October 2003'


SANA president Professor David Mackay has made a moving appeal to fellow anglers regarding the future of his association. Announcing a proposal to change SANA’s status into a limited company, to be debated at the AGM in spring 2004, president Mackay warned his troops that SANA’s influence in affairs vital to angling was waning.

Prof Mackay said, “SANA’s claim to be the first natural choice to represent anglers on various discussion forums is no longer recognised. Despite strong representations by myself to Ross Finne and Allan Wilson, the anglers’ vitally important voices on the forum to oversee the implementation of the Water Framework Directive has gone to the Association of District Salmon Fishery Boards and to the Salmon and Trout Association (Scotland) which represents about 1,100 anglers against SANA’s 30,000.”

Prof Mackay knows why this has happened: “SANA does not have the resources to communicate well even within our own members, never mind making an impact on the world at large. We are impoverished. Compared with our sister organisations, we operate on a shoestring. The heroes of SANA are our 365 individual members who, for £21 a year, receive only our annual report and possibly a couple of copies of SANA news. That shows true faith and commitment to the aims and objectives of SANA.”

As one of these ‘heroes’, I agree. According to the president, SANA’s 420 clubs pay £47 pa. in membership fees. This means clubs contribute very little, per club member, to support the work SANA undertakes; about 66p per head and in clubs with a large membership probably only a few pence per member. Prof Mackay pleads, “If all 30,000 members of SANA were prepared to donate just £1.00 each year, our financial problems would be solved – is it too much to ask for £1 each to help achieve our objectives?”

What objectives, and how does SANA propose to achieve them? I don’t know and the professor doesn’t tell me. And SANA doesn’t have 30,000 members; they represent 420 clubs and 365 individuals. SANA is two organisations, not one. Clubs are primarily interested in competition fishing, the ‘heroes’ are concerned with the future of fishing in Scotland as a whole. Until SANA accepts this, they are fooling themselves every bit as much as the most obdurate political ‘spin-master’. What they are not doing, however, as political spin-master have now realised, is fooling the broad church of Scottish angling.

Money is not going to fill the credibility gap that now exists between words and action. Professor Mackay tells us, “We [SANA] are joint custodians of the Sea Trout Group which is attempting to combat the ill-effects of the caged salmon farming industry”.

Does anybody other than David Mackay and members of the Sea Trout Group believe this? I would throw my full weight behind positive, determined action to save our wild fish. So would thousands of my fellow anglers. But SANA has to prove that it is worthy of such trust. Until they convince me I will keep my £1 in my pocket.


As disease and pollution from Scotland’s fish farms drive west Highland and island wild salmon ever further towards extinction, a new threat to Salmo salar has arrived from Russia. On August 19th a Pacific pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbusha, was caught in the River Leven, the stream that drains romantic Loch Lomond.

The fish must have come from farms in the Kola Peninsula and the White Sea in Western Siberia, rather than from Pacific Ocean. Since the 1930’s the Russians have imported pinks from their Pacific coast rivers and released them into western waters where they compete for a finite food and spawning habitat with Atlantic salmon.

Bill Davies, who fishes Kola said: “They [pink salmon] have degraded Atlantic salmon runs.” Pinks are also caught regularly in Iceland and have been taken in Scottish nets in the past. One dead pink was found on the banks of Prince Charles’ favourite Atlantic salmon stream, the River Naver in North Sutherland.

It unlikely that the Lomond pink was travelling alone. In its Pacific home the species travel in huge shoals. Michael Brady of the Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association commented: “I find it quite extraordinary that there should be only one [pink] and we will be keeping the situation under review.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive (SE) and the EU has awarded the another sack-full of tax-payer cash to Scotland’s foreign-owned fake fish farmers: £180,000 to “improve” a Shetland fish farm and more than £1.2 million to support new cod and halibut farms and fish processing plants. The SE also reminded their fish farm chums that bids for more money in 2004 must be lodged by the end of September.

This largesse will be particularly welcome in Shetland where ‘naturally occurring’ toxic algal blooms have been busy again. In August tens of thousands of captive fish died, the weight of dead bodies buckling cages. The culprit has been identified as Gymnodinium mikimotoi; small algae that cause the water to thicken with mucous so that more oxygen is needed by fish to provide energy to pump water over their gills than they can extract from the water, thus leading to asphyxiation.

Hanne Irvine, a research fellow at the SE’s North Atlantic Fisheries College in Shetland commented that it would be difficult to say what had caused the outbreak: “Levels of the algae have been found to be over 2.5 million cells per litre of seawater. It changed the colour of water brown in many areas of Shetland from Scalloway to Vaila Sound and north to Muckle Roe.” Prior to the expansion of fish farming in the Shetland Isles there are no reports of toxic algal blooms.

Rod McGill