CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION
We received numerous letters expressing your anger that Dr Jaffa was allowed to publish his defence of the salmon-farming industry in last month’s T&S. Here is a selection of your comments.
I must point out the bad taste of your magazine publishing Dr Jaffa’s views in the same issue as Bruce Sandison’s obituary. [Bruce was a fierce critic of salmon farming and an inspirational defender of wild fish – editor.] Dr Jaffa’s views are based on graphs made with Marine Scotland Science (MSS) figures. MSS figures are highly controversial and sometimes farcical as your Highlands correspondent Andrew Graham-stewart points out with humour when reporting about the Helmsdale. In its present organisation there is absolutely no doubt from a scientific point of view that salmon farming is bad for the environment, bad for wild fish. Olivier Devictor, London
Dr Jaffa has more than 40 years’ experience in the study of salmon farming. It is quite incredible that in those 40 years Dr Jaffa has failed to recognise the direct causal link between salmon farms and the decline of sea-trout stocks. The sad demise of the Loch Maree sea-trout fishery is familiar to many of us. That the primary cause of that demise has been the spread of sea-lice from the salmon farm in Loch Ewe is undeniable. For someone purporting to be a scientist to seek to deny this fact is irresponsible in the extreme. The following paragraphs were extracted from a scientific report by respected biologists on the sea-lice problem caused by the salmon farms: “In areas with epizootics (outbreaks of disease affecting many fish at one time), lice can directly cause the mortality of 30 to 50 per cent of all migrating sea trout smolts and 48 to 86 per cent of all wild salmon smolts...” All this was known 15 years ago. Dr Jaffa’s conclusions are irrational, spurious and fanciful, unsupported by any evidence. For me, they negate any credibility Dr Jaffa might have had prior to this article being published. His final paragraph takes the biscuit: “Surely the time for finger-pointing must stop… There is no reason why wild salmon fisheries and salmon farming cannot co-exist in harmony… Salmon farming may not be so dirty after all.” Aye, right! Tell that to what remains of the Loch Maree sea-trout and those who once depended on them for their livelihood. John Gray, Grantown on Spey
It is to the editor’s credit that Dr Jaffa has been given the opportunity to defend the salmon-farming industry. However, Dr Jaffa’s stance is reminiscent of that taken by Big Tobacco to deny the link between smoking and lung cancer. The evidence that has accumulated against his case is now overwhelming, and even Dr Jaffa concedes that “there might be some impact on stocks already in decline”. Let us hope that this is a final rearguard action of a discredited industry, which soon may be obliged to move farms away from wild fisheries, and switch to full containment. Dr Jaffa should be challenged to test his hypothesis. His backers could lease a defined migratory catchment, install a fish counter and trap, place a salmon farm near the river mouth and then measure the effects. A natural experiment of this kind occurred in Ireland when the Killary salmon farm went bankrupt and healthy sea-trout returned to the Delphi system. John Smithson, Bristol
This article made my blood boil. Perhaps Dr Jaffa could explain why sea-trout stocks in Connemara actually collapsed at the same time as opencage salmon aquaculture kicked off in the late 1980s, leading to the Sea Trout Action Groups. On a river in Connemara where I regularly fish, I can only suppose that it is a coincidence that sea-trout appear when the salmon farms in the area are fallow in conjunction with the spring smolt migration and disappear when the farms are stocked or lice levels are significant. I have no doubt the aquaculture industry will trumpet this study without T&S doing it for them. The time for discussion is past. Geoffrey Fitzjohn, County Galway
I was very interested to read Dr Jaffa’s piece. By laying the blame for reduced salmon stocks on one industry, it leaves the door open for other causes to go unnoticed and unchecked. While it may be that salmon farms do have an impact on wild fish stocks, they may not be the only reason for the reduction. A holistic investigation to find the cause or causes seems a very sensible way forward. David Smith, Suffolk
I am disappointed that you have published [Dr Jaffa’s] article. Dr Jaffa admits that his paper has not undergone peer review. Let’s hope that it is never published. There is no mention of the pollution issues, which are clearly documented. He does not address the lice and disease issues that have plagued the industry. It is currently wrestling with amoebic gill disease, one of a succession of diseases that wild salmon are exposed to. Why is it that sites have to be left fallow after production cycles? He does not consider the impact of the trawling of fodder species, such as anchovies, sprats and sand eels, to produce fish oil and meal essential for the diet of farmed salmon. The loss of sand eels not only impacts fish but has also been identified as one of the reasons for the decline in seabirds. Dr John Robertson, via e-mail