SEA-LICE GAME CHANGER

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Letters -

Our fed­er­a­tion, as one of the found­ing mem­bers of the North At­lantic Salmon Fund (NASF), has not just cam­paigned for many years to pro­tect our wild At­lantic salmon in their feed­ing grounds, but also to end the in­fes­ta­tion of our mi­grat­ing smolts from sea-lice em­a­nat­ing from the open-sea salmon farm cages. The re­cent NASCO con­fer­ence in Swe­den wel­comed up­dated re­ports on the new Nor­we­gian road map mea­sures an­nounced as a wa­ter­shed event in May at the 10th an­nual Har­dan­ger­fjord sem­i­nar on fish farm­ing. It was en­cour­ag­ing to at­tend and hear the new as­sur­ances by the in­dus­try lead­ers in Nor­way that there will be no more farmed salmon pro­duc­tion growth un­til there are zero es­capees and sea-lice. We now hope com­pa­nies like Marine Har­vest ex­tend this as­sur­ance to Ire­land and Scot­land, as it is an­other very im­por­tant step to­wards the pro­tec­tion of wild At­lantic salmon stocks, which sug­gests a closed, con­tained fu­ture for the in­dus­try. In terms of the salmon-farm­ing league ta­ble, Ire­land’s pro­duc­tion is a mi­nus­cule 10,000 tons an­nu­ally, com­pared to 1.3 mil­lion tons in Nor­way or 210,000 tons in Scot­land. Yet, the dam­age to our wild At­lantic salmon by the sea-lice in­fes­ta­tion of our mi­grat­ing smolts is dev­as­tat­ing and so clear from the lat­est In­land Fish­eries Ire­land Gar­gan/shep­hard re­port (see “Fish farm­ing cri­sis…”, p43) which proves that it re­duces grilse re­turns by some 50 per cent. Dr Gar­gan’s lone voice of clar­ity since the 1990s must be com­mended. Mor­tal­ity at sea is the undis­puted prob­lem owing to many rea­sons, in­clud­ing in­fested mi­grat­ing smolts dy­ing on their way to their feed­ing grounds. The de­creased salmon num­bers that sur­vive that jour­ney are in many cases pro­tected by NASF con­tracts with net fish­er­men on the high seas be­fore they re­turn to their natal rivers. In the mean­time, the move to on­shore closed con­tain­ment seems to be the only op­tion for a lice- and amoe­bic gill dis­ease-free fu­ture in Ire­land and Scot­land. Politi­cians and busi­ness own­ers now re­alise they can no longer al­low our pris­tine wild At­lantic coastal wa­ters to be li­censed for what is no longer tol­er­ated in Nor­way. Noel Carr, sec­re­tary, Fed­er­a­tion of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout An­glers

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