By Nick Joy

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY NICK JOY

IHAVE just had the ex­treme mis­for­tune to read the En­vi­ron­ment, Cli­mate Change and Land Re­form (ECCLR) com­mit­tee’s re­port on the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of salmon farm­ing. Let’s be hon­est, th­ese re­ports are rarely ex­cit­ing and of­ten dull. In this case, the po­si­tion is wors­ened by two fac­tors.

First, di­rect op­po­nents of the in­dus­try, even those ut­terly dis­cred­ited, were asked for their opin­ions.Th­ese opin­ions were then cited as facts - which leads one to won­der why some peo­ple are asked to pro­duce ev­i­dence that is scru­ti­nised and some not.

The sec­ond is that if you ask a sci­en­tist whether an in­dus­try is good or bad, they in­vari­ably do not an­swer the ques­tion and call for more re­search. Why would they not?

There are nets out there with less holes than this re­port. It states that there have been no long term stud­ies on sea lice and sea trout.

West Suther­land Fish­eries Trust has been net­ting sea trout for this rea­son for nearly 20 years! How long do they want?

There have been em­i­nent stud­ies into in­tro­gres­sion of farmed and wild that ap­pears to be noth­ing but a con­duit sug­gest that we should do more.

Ap­par­ently, Sepa (the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency) has not done its job in en­sur­ing the qual­ity of the ben­thos be­cause salmon pro­duce

Zero im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment is a ridicu­lous con­cept for any ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing the ex­is­tence of hu­man be­ings.The is­sue should be whether such im­pact is eas­ily re­versible.

Nowhere does the ECCLR com­mit­tee look at the use of area ver­sus id­i­otic band­wagon that aqua­cul­ture should move on­shore and burn huge amounts of en­ergy.

I will not waste time dis­cussing a form of aqua­cul­ture loved by the peo­ple who have never risked a penny in their lives or pro­duced a sin­gle gram of food for any­one else.

The one thing that re­ally makes me see red is the state­ment that noth­ing has changed or got bet­ter in the last 15 years or so. On what ba­sis do they make this state­ment?

The medicine use by the in­dus­try has de­clined a huge amount. Be­ing a new in­dus­try, we face new chal­lenges and th­ese will be health chal­lenges.The ques­tion is, what should we do about them?

When I was giv­ing a talk in the US a good few years ago, I set up one of the most ar­dent (and most dis­cred­ited) crit­ics of our in­dus­try. Know­ing that he could not re­sist com­ment­ing, I said:‘Why is it okay to treat your dog when it is sick but, ac­cord­ing to you guys, not okay to treat a farmed an­i­mal?’

It was rhetor­i­cal but he leapt up and with­out hes­i­ta­tion shouted,‘You don’t eat your dog!’ I replied,‘It’s a wel­fare ques­tion’.To­tal si­lence reigned as the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists re­alised the com­pro­mises be­tween th­ese two that a farmer has to make.

Another area of com­plete con­tra­dic­tion in the ECCLR re­port is the use of the phrase ‘pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple’, which the au­thors do not be­lieve has been used enough, es­pe­cially in the case of the po­ten­tial ef­fects of sea lice.

Now for­give me if I have got this wrong, but if you are re­act­ing to a po­ten­tial ef­fect, surely that is pre­cau­tion­ary? I know there has never been a study (and there never will be) link­ing the in­ci­dence of sea lice to mor­tal­ity in salmon and sea trout, and so all of the leg­is­la­tion around sea lice is pre­cau­tion­ary.

There is the odd fact within this in­ac­cu­rate piece of stodge but there is only one line with which I can to­tally agree:‘The sta­tus quo is not an op­tion’.

It is time that we put a se­ri­ous piece of work in place.The crit­ics of this in­dus­try and the in­dus­try de­bate.They in­sist on try­ing to link sea lice from next stage (mor­tal­ity) is im­pos­si­ble to prove.

This is a sta­tis­ti­cal de­bate. Is the de­cline on the east coast any dif­fer­ent from the de­cline on the west coast? I say not and I am sure the crit­ics would say yes.

How­ever, there is a very sim­ple way to check. Let’s hire an in­de­pen­dent statis­ti­cian to take the two sets of data since 1950 and in­ter­pret them. The meth­ods of record­ing are the same.The er­ror bars should be sim­i­lar and thus it should ef­fect or not.

I do agree with the re­port’s call for the gov­ern­ment to cre­ate a depart­ment to look at the health and wel­fare of wild sea trout and salmon. The or­gan­i­sa­tions which claim to have mi­grat­ing salmonids’ best in­ter­ests at heart are the same ones that want them on a hook at the end of a line, hardly a nor­mal con­ser­va­tion prin­ci­ple! The sim­ple truth about this re­port is not that the in­dus­try hasn’t changed but that pol­i­tics -and the qual­ity of politi­cians - has not changed.

There are nets out there with less holes than this re­port

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