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An rud bhios na do bhroin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
"That which you have wasted will not be there for future generations"

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'Northern Climes, October 2007'

MAKE ABUSE OF WILD SALMON AND SEA-TROUT A WILDLIFE CRIME

Sid Patten, CEO of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, recently waxed lyrical about how concerned his members were to prevent escapes from their farms (see November’s Northern Climes). “The industry is making huge efforts to improve containment standards of fish,” he said. However, no sooner were the words out of his mouth when news broke of yet another escape, this time from Marine Harvest smolt-rearing unit in Loch Shiel. Upwards of 15,000 fish did a runner from their cages at the end of September.

Steve Bracken, Marine Harvest technical development manager said: “We suspected a fish escape on September 26 and September 27 at Glenfinnan as a result of a predator problem a mink or cormorant eating holes below the waterline of our nets…We greatly regret the loss of any of our stock as it is both embarrassing and expensive.” But obviously not embarrassing nor expensive enough to persuade the company to use nets that are ’fit for purpose’, at the very least designed to resist attacks from small animals and/or birds.

Jim Semple is a riparian owner on the River Shiel. Over the years he has seen the numbers of wild salmon and sea-trout in the Shiel and Loch Shiel decline to near-extinction levels. He has been tireless in his efforts to reverse the decline and to highlight the dangers and damage caused by factory fish farming to wild stocks. In a guest column written for the Salmon Farm Protest Group (www.salmonfarmmonitor.org) in 2004, Jim had this to say about the Shiel:

“This morning, I was sitting by the river trying to paint a picture of a salmon pool. During the war it contained so many fish that it used to be netted for food. A ton of salmon was once taken from this pool and used to feed soldiers training in Ardnamurchan. Earlier, I had hurried out of bed at five thirty to have a cast before the sun was up. Now, I am now painting. At least I can enjoy the scenery and remember the old times when fish were splashing everywhere.”

On 5th October, Michael Russell, the Scottish Government Minister for the Environment announced that wildlife crime was to be reviewed. In the parliamentary debate that followed, Solicitor General, Frank Mulholland QC, said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service take crimes against Scotland’s natural heritage seriously.” Are wild salmon and sea-trout not part of Scotland’s natural heritage? Do they not deserve as much protection from abuse as do golden eagles and other raptors?

Clearly, the salmon farmers are incapable of stopping their fake fish from escaping into the environment. Neither are they willing to bring their operations on shore to land-based closed containment systems where they will no longer be a danger to marine and freshwater species. Surely it is time to make it a wildlife crime to abuse our wild salmon and sea-trout - and to vigorously prosecute to the full extent of the law those who are found guilty of doing so.

Rod McGill