Salmon farm on Scotland’s west coast

Silver spoon lairds’ fish farming attack is a huge own goal

Scotland’s salmon farming industry was under attack again this week from its regular detractors in the wild fish lobby.

Normally, criticism from this quarter might be shrugged off by salmon farmers, who have long been the target of the angling community, which blames the decline in wild stocks on fish farms.

But there is nothing normal about the current situation and both the grounds and the timing of the latest campaign leave a nasty taste.

In a new report, anti-salmon farm group Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, together with the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, demands the government cuts support for the sector because its economic value and the number of people it employs have apparently been exaggerated.

This is quite a claim for a Scottish success story that is worth more than £1 billion a year to the economy, creates thousands of jobs, often in remote rural areas, and produces the UK’s biggest food export.

The report’s authors base their logic on unchecked statistics (they even contradict their own figures) and the premise that the growth of salmon farming comes at the expense of others, including creel fishermen, recreational fishers and divers, and sea wildlife tourists.

Nowhere do they provide evidence that salmon farm sites — which if placed together would occupy just two 18-hole golf courses in our vast coastline — cannot coexist happily with all other marine users.

But it is not only the report’s unfounded assumptions, dismissed as ‘grotesque’ by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, that are so objectionable.

Fish farmers, designated key workers by the government, have toiled throughout the coronavirus crisis to maintain a steady supply of salmon to the supermarkets.

Their role is vital, as is that of the fish processors, boat crews, hauliers and sales and distribution teams who help to put food on the table.

Undermining all their efforts are wealthy river owners, a small but vocal elite, motivated by their determination to protect their riparian inheritance and too blinkered to see how shameful their defence of privilege looks at a time like this.

Their grievances against aquaculture have for years played on environmental concerns but with wild salmon depleted in east coast rivers as well as in England, where there are no farms, they have had to change tack, thus their focus on salmon jobs.

Given the circumstances, though, a report that pits hard working food producers against silver spoon sports fishermen is a massive own goal, one that will be remembered the next time the angling lairds take aim from their estates.

This article by Jenny Hjul first appeared in The Times on Tuesday 5 May 2020

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TalkSalmon

TalkSalmon

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Advocating responsible aquaculture. Independent of, but working alongside, the Scottish salmon sector.