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Old 3rd September 2009, 07:40
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Default Wild fish interests condemn major escape from Mull freshwater salmon farm

The Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) and the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) have condemned a major escape of juvenile salmon from a Scottish Sea Farms unit on Loch Frisa, a freshwater loch near Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. The company, which supplies Marks and Spencer amongst other retailers, has confirmed that it lost an estimated 37,000 Atlantic salmon parr on August 25th through “large holes….strongly suspected to be from predator attack”.

Roger Brook, Chairman of RAFTS, commented: “Through interbreeding escaped farmed salmon pose a major risk to the genetic integrity and thus the survival of wild salmon populations. Loch Frisa forms part of a small wild salmon river system. These escaped fish will inevitably migrate to sea. When they return as adults, they are likely to outnumber the River Aros’s wild stocks and threaten their future viability. The word ‘escape’ is a misnomer in that it implies cunning fish managing to evade capture. The reality is that these fish simply swim out of their cages because the farmers use inadequate equipment that cannot withstand the attentions of small predators such as otters. Once again the fish farmers have proven that they are simply incapable of containing their fish”.

Mr Brook continued: “This episode makes a mockery of claims on the Scottish Sea Farms website that the company seeks ‘to limit any possible impact on wild fish stocks’ with ‘an overall target of zero fish escapes’. Such platitudes are virtually meaningless and surely it is time that responsible retailers such as Marks and Spencer considered the environmental damage caused by suppliers like Scottish Sea Farms”.

Mr Brook added: “It is reported that local anglers had been aware of these escaped fish for three to four weeks before the fish farmer noticed. That calls into question just how rigorous the company’s monitoring of these cages was”.

Hugh Campbell Adamson, Chairman of ASFB, said: “The fish farmers should not be permitted to pay lip-service to preventing fish losses. Relocation must now become a reality. Freshwater salmon smolt farms should either be located in lochs which are not part of wild salmon river systems or, ideally, in self-contained land-based units, as is practiced in other countries. Over the last decade scientists from all the wild salmon producing nations of the North Atlantic, including some of the Scottish Government’s own scientists, have consistently advised that escaped farmed salmon pose a serious threat to wild stocks. Despite this advice, here in Scotland we have had years of industry and Government prevarication on the issue including toothless legislation and ineffectual codes of practice, which appear to have no deterrent value whatsoever. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only remedy available to wild fish interests is the use of the law”.
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