Fears over wild fish as salmon get out of farm

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

RIVER work­ers have voiced fears for the pu­rity of wild salmon in Ar­gyll and Bute af­ter more than 11,000 farmed fish es­caped into rivers.

The es­cape from a Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany farm at Geas­gill on Mull was re­ported to Ma­rine Scot­land af­ter em­ploy­ees recorded low num­bers.

The Scot­tish Game­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (SGA) Fish­ing Group said 11,040 farmed salmon en­tered rivers, in­clud­ing the River Ba, one of the few rivers in the west of Scot­land given a class one rat­ing for salmon con­ser­va­tion.

Ghillies in the area have or­dered any farmed salmon caught to be killed and not re­turned to the river.

Game­keep­ers also say there is “real con­cern” cross-breed­ing be­tween farmed salmon and wild salmon will weaken the wild gene pool.

Greg Marsh, of the SGA Fish­ing Group, who looks af­ter oper­a­tions at River Co­ladoir and Loch Scridain said: “Peo­ple here are up in arms.

“What ef­fect is this go­ing to have on the wild fish? What will fish­eries be of­fer­ing in three or four years’ time? Fish of un­known ge­netic pu­rity.”

Mr Marsh says all Scot­tish an­glers need to now be able to iden­tify farmed salmon in rivers to en­sure the fish are not be­ing rere­leased into the sys­tem.

A spokes­woman for The Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany said: “Dur­ing a rou­tine fish han­dling ex­er­cise at our site on Mull we iden­ti­fied a re­duc­tion in salmon num­bers.

“This was re­ported to Ma­rine Scot­land and in­ves­ti­gated in line with stan­dard pro­ce­dure. We have re­viewed pro­ce­dures.”

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