Farmed salmon escape into Scottish rivers
New figures revealed by the Scottish Executive confirm that the number of farmed salmon that escaped during the severe storms in January 2005 was much larger than first estimated by industry.
Despite claims that most of the fish released during the storms died before they left their cages, evidence now suggests that out of a total of 731,000 fish reported lost, only around 58,000 were confirmed mortalities resulting in possibly over 670,000 farmed fish escaping, with potentially disastrous impacts for Scotland's wild salmon population.
“It is not merely the number of farmed salmon that escaped but the activities of those that may survive," said Laura Bateson, speaking on behalf of WWF Scotland and Scottish Wildlife Trust's joint marine programme.
"Should a small percentage of the escaped salmon interbreed with the wild salmon, it would lead to genetic dilution of the local wild population...and have a lesser chance of reproduction and survival, leading to a decline in the wild population and biodiversity in Scotland.”
Wild salmon is a protected species in Scotland, and the species is endangered in over 30 per cent of the UK’s historic salmon rivers.
"While we recognize the social and economic benefits of the Scottish fish farming industry, we believe these should be equally balanced with the socio-economic impacts of the angling industry in Scotland and should not outweigh the importance of protecting Scotland’s unique and vulnerable water environment," Bateson said.
WWF Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are urging the Scottish executive to insist on minimum cage standards for Scotland aquaculture. This has already been introduced in Norway.
"Increasing the robust nature of the cages, would also protect the fish farmers’ investment, especially as the frequency of extreme weather events as witnessed in Scotland throughout mid January are forecast to increase over the coming decade,” Bateson added.
• Scottish waters generate £14 billion or 21 per cent of Scottish GDP the economy each year. Almost 20 per cent of the Scottish population lives within one kilometre of the coast. Fifty per cent of UK wildlife is found in the marine environment with 14 nationally and internationally important coastal and marine habitats in Scotland supporting an estimated 8,000 species.
• The Joint Marine Programme (JMP) in Scotland is a partnership between Scottish Wildlife Trust and WWF Scotland. It aims to ensure the conservation of marine wildlife and a healthy marine and coastal environment.
• Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) is Scotland’s largest conservation organisation committed to protecting all wildlife, with 26,000 members and a national network of more than 120 wildlife reserves. SWT is a member of The Wildlife Trusts, a partnership of 47 independent wildlife charities throughout the UK, Channel Isles and Isle of Man.
• WWF have recently published the Marine Health Check 2005, which reports that Atlantic Salmon are in “significant decline” within the UK, identifying salmon farming as one of the major threats to wild species survival. A copy of the document can be found at: www.wwf.org.uk/marineact/reports.asp
For further information:
Jules Weston, Press Officer
Tel: +44 1887 820449