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