Ed­i­tor's let­ter

An­drew Fl­itcroft re­ports on Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s lat­est at­tempt to pro­tect pol­lut­ing fish farm­ers

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - CONTENTS -

An­drew Fl­itcroft re­ports on an­other Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment fudge

IN THE MAY IS­SUE I WAS PLEASED TO re­port – at long last – progress in the peren­nial “sal­mon farm­ing de­ba­cle”. Politi­cians were start­ing to “get it”, that sal­mon farm­ing is far from a shin­ing bea­con of ex­cel­lence. The Scot­tish Par­lia­ment’s En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee had just is­sued a truly damn­ing re­port, unan­i­mously signed off by MSPS from all par­ties, on the in­dus­try’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and record. This re­port con­cluded the in­dus­try is largely in­ca­pable of ad­dress­ing sea-lice and dis­ease, that if cur­rent is­sues are not ad­dressed, then any ex­pan­sion will be un­sus­tain­able and may cause ir­recov­er­able dam­age, that “the sta­tus quo is not an op­tion”, that farms should be re­lo­cated away from wild fish mi­gra­tion routes and that there should be a manda­tory re­quire­ment for farms to keep lice num­bers within those of the in­dus­try’s own Code of Good Prac­tice. This re­port was the first part of the Par­lia­ment’s In­quiry into sal­mon farm­ing. The se­cond part is be­ing con­ducted by the Ru­ral Econ­omy Com­mit­tee, with its wider re­mit. It’s due to is­sue its re­port, with rec­om­men­da­tions, in “early au­tumn”. In what is clearly a des­per­ately cyn­i­cal move de­signed to head off calls for real ac­tion, which the Com­mit­tee is likely to ad­vo­cate, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, em­ploy­ing the clas­sic politi­cians’ get-out-of-jail-free card, has an­nounced the set­ting up of a work­ing group “to ex­am­ine… the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween farmed and wild sal­mon, and make rec­om­men­da­tions on how any as­so­ci­ated im­pacts can be min­imised”. In other words, an­other talk­ing shop, aimed at kick­ing is­sues deep into the long grass; over the years there have been sev­eral such ini­tia­tives (eg, the Tri­par­tite Work­ing Group), all of which have made zero progress. Mean­while, the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to ex­pand, dec­i­mat­ing High­lands and Is­lands’ pop­u­la­tions of wild sal­mon and sea-trout. So, who are the wor­thies on the work­ing group? They in­clude Ma­rine Scot­land, SEPA and Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage, all of whom have been com­plicit (in def­er­ence to their Gov­ern­ment masters) in pre­var­i­cat­ing about the deadly con­se­quences of open-cage sal­mon farm­ing, thus sup­port­ing the sta­tus quo. Then there are rep­re­sen­ta­tives from aqua­cul­ture, with their glib to­bacco in­dus­try-style as­ser­tions that there is no ev­i­dence of any dam­age to wild stocks. Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment trum­pets that the group will be “chaired in­de­pen­dently”. One would hope that he or she would have im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials. How­ever, search en­gines re­veal that the chair­man-des­ig­nate, John Good­lad, was a di­rec­tor and sub­se­quently chair­man of Shet­land Catch, when over a three-year pe­riod it know­ingly han­dled black fish (fish which are caught, re­tained and sold il­le­gally, usu­ally in ex­cess of per­mit­ted quo­tas) worth some £47 mil­lion, be­lieved to be the UK’S big­gest-ever such scam. Af­ter it was busted, the com­pany was or­dered, un­der the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act, to pay back £1.5 mil­lion in prof­its and the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral said that the com­pany “sought to make huge fi­nan­cial gain with to­tal dis­re­gard for the law… in a web of de­ceit with their sole mo­ti­va­tion be­ing greed”. It gets worse – Mr Good­lad used to own and op­er­ate sev­eral sal­mon farms! Just how can a for­mer sal­mon farmer be deemed in this con­text to be gen­uinely “in­de­pen­dent”, let alone im­par­tial? We have no doubt that Mr Good­lad was the pre­ferred choice of the Min­is­ter for sal­mon farm­ing – Fergus Ewing MSP, whose sup­port for the in­dus­try is reck­lessly blind. At the re­cent Seafood Expo in Brus­sels, Mr Ewing is re­ported to have told Scot­land’s sal­mon farm­ers that “I’m de­ter­mined to give what lead­er­ship I can to make sure that no mat­ter what chal­lenges are thrown at it you dou­ble growth… Let’s do it… Let’s go, Scot­land!” Clearly that in­cludes the set­ting up of glo­ri­fied talk­ing shops. The best we can hope is that those rep­re­sent­ing fish­ery boards and trusts on the work­ing group have the nous to get up and walk as soon as it is ap­par­ent that the ini­tia­tive is in­deed a cha­rade. That is the very least we should ex­pect.

I WAS IN IRE­LAND at the end of June. Would you believe the weather on Cor­rib was the same as the rest of the UK. Tem­per­a­tures in the high twen­ties, flat calm and trout as fussy as I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. I fished the chal­leng­ing cae­nis hatch. To tempt a trout I had to fish a sin­gle size 20 fly on a 20ft leader and 7X tip­pet. To land fish on 2.2lb tip­pet, you need a rod with a soft ac­tion. Nail-bit­ing stuff when a 3lb trout tears off with the whole fly-line and back­ing. Tourists were en­joy­ing the heat­wave, in con­trast to lo­cal an­glers, who’ve a battle on their hands. Their fight is with In­land Fish­eries Ire­land, whose top brass have de­cided to step away from the hands-on con­ser­va­tion of fish­eries and have passed the buck to clubs and in­di­vid­u­als. In ef­fect, cost­cut­ting. T&S con­trib­u­tor Den­nis Moss brought me up to speed on this se­ri­ous con­cern in a let­ter, pub­lished on p75. He’s also started a pe­ti­tion, which I en­cour­age you to sign.

“A des­per­ately cyn­i­cal move de­signed to head off calls for real ac­tion”

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