Farmed salmon lobby attacks anglers

Wild salmon leapingIt seems that Scotland’s salmon farmers are running scared. To quote the immortal words of Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army, recalling bayonet fighting in the Sudan: “They don’t like it up ’em!” What the salmon farmers don’t like is the truth about their industry, including the pollution of the seabed and their abiding failure to control sea lice, being communicated by wild fish interests to a wider audience – not only the general public but also the supermarkets, celebrity chefs and organisations such as the RSPCA, which through its questionable Freedom Foods scheme “endorses” the product (while taking large sums of cash from the farmers).
The most recent salvo from the Salmon & Trout Association Scotland (see “Seabed pollution scandal” in October’s Newsreel) exposed via Freedom of Information the reality of the industry’s abysmal pollution record. This triggered a devastating critique of salmon farming in a Sunday Times comment column by Charles Clover.
Top of the S&TA’s league table of seabed polluters was Western Ross Fisheries, whose website boasts that all of our operations .. minimise our impact on the environment ensuring htat we are producing the finest quality Scottish salmon in harmony with our environment.” The company declined to comment on its status as a serial polluter. However, a fortnight later is issued a bizzare news realease condeming anglers for killing 24,105 wild salmon in 2011 (oddly enough there was no mention of hte 63,810 released by anglers) in Scotland as a whole, clearly inferring that this factor rather than salmon farming was “responsible for an alleged decline in wild salon popultaions, especially on the west coast”.
This was published in the Ullapool News, promting a robust response from local river proprietors and gillies. Obviously the salmon-farming PR battle is not going to be won or lost in the pages of a small Ross-shire weekly. However, this episode is symptomatic of the new strategy being forged by the industry. The policy now seems to be, rather than attempting to defend the indefensible (the appalling environmental track record of aquaculture) to attack salmon angling itself: in other words “Lets shoot the messenger”.
It is surely no coincidence that much of the Wester Ross Fisheries news release was lifted from the ramblings of one Dr Martin Jaffa. He is a “doctor” on the basis of a 1993 PhD thesis at Aston University in “The use of bakery wastes as a nutritional source for fish”. A “passionate advocate of aquaculture”, in recent months he has adopted a most touching concern for the welfare of wild fish , both through his “Relaksation” blog and his constant bombardment of the media through letters and online comment. His recent clarion calls include demanding a ban on salmon angling on the basis that it might be cruel to fish, a ban on the killing of any wild salmon whatsoever.
In public Dr Jaffa (like the industry) maintains that there is no connection between sea-lice numbers and the decline in west coast wild fish populations. However , in private correspondence we have seen with a T&S reader his stance is less dogmatic: “I suspect that there is a link of some form but not as great as is stated.”
Dr Jaffa’s bilious attacks on angling intensified prior to the publishing in the Scottish Parliament of the new Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill. This has now happened (see Newsreel page 16) and what is most striking is the omission in the aquaculture section of several significant policy proposals from the consultation process. Wild fish interests have much to fight for during the parliamentary process. Politicians tend to be wary of extremists and Dr Jaffa’s antics in support of salmon farming may yet backfire.
“What the salmon farmers ‘don’t like’ is the truth abut their industry, including the pollution of the seabed and their abiding failure to control sea-lice”

Editorial by Andrew Flitcroft. Novemebr 2012

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