Off the table: Fish Farming Export report that Salmon Scotland has been admitted into the World Association of Chef’s Societies; an organisation dedicated to maintaining and improving the culinary standard of global cuisines. Worldchefs’ managing director Ragnar Fridriksson said that producers and chefs have a special connection and thus Worldchefs’ is proud to partner with Salmon Scotland. The organisation, founded by Auguste Escoffier in 1928, is a federation made up of 110 national chef associations, representing many chefs around the world.
This news comes as Wild Fish Conservation complete the first month of their latest campaign aimed at protecting wild salmon. This is ‘Off the Table’ which aims to persuade chefs and restaurants to stop putting farmed salmon on their menus. The hope is that restaurants stop serving farmed salmon and their customers stop eating it, so Wild Fish “can apply increasing pressure on the Scottish Government, certification, and regulatory bodies to end the fundamentally unsustainable practice of open-net salmon farming”.
This is not the first time that Wild Fish have tried to persuade consumers to forgo farmed salmon. Their campaign didn’t work then, and it hasn’t worked now. Why would consumers stop eating a tasty healthy food just so a bunch of old men can justify going fishing for sport. It doesn’t help their cause that these old men have got their facts wrong and salmon farming is not the reason why wild fish stocks are in such a perilous state.
It is already clear that this campaign is failing. After a month, Wild Fish put out a request on social media for help asking for those reading to ask their favourite restaurant to take salmon off the menu. The post on Twitter had 7 retweets and 14 likes. It is surprising that Wild Fish need such help since for this campaign they recruited a farm salmon campaign manager – Matt who also happens to be a vet. Matt wrote a blog about the ‘Off the Table’ campaign on 17th October and since then he has been remarkably silent. Perhaps, the failure of the campaign has prompted Wild Fish to dispense with his services. It will be interesting to see if my comments prompt Matt to resurface.
The ‘Off the Table’ campaign has a website and the last news posted was on the same day the campaign was launched. Currently, the only restaurant that is publicised is the Meikleour Arms, a pub in the heart of salmon angling country, so their refusal to serve farmed salmon is of no surprise. At the start of the campaign, there was reference to a small biodynamic restaurant in Bristol which also did not serve farmed salmon. That it seems is the extent of their publicised support.
Ten days into the campaign, Wild Fish sent out an email update from Nick (Measham CEO) which says that the campaign brings together world renowned chefs, restaurants, NGOs, journalists and conservationists, yet does not name one of them. Nick also says that ‘We are led by science, and the science is clear. Open net salmon farm must end – and end now.’ Sadly, I don’t think Nick understands science.
The reason I say this is that Mr Measham was interviewed on the fly culture podcast: https://t.co/11i8vqbO7f . It’s an hour-long interview but gives a significant insight into Wild Fish Conservation. The interview was prompted by the Off the Table campaign, but this was only mentioned at the end. Mr Measham’s explanation about the need for change in salmon farming was not delivered with great confidence but rather sounded more like a too often repeated narrative. Mr Measham stressed that Wild Fish is not about angling, but he spent most of the interview relating his love of angling and how he came to take up the sport.
What was more interesting is why Salmon & Trout Conservation changed its name to Wild Fish. Seemingly a consumer panel thought Salmon & Trout Conservation was an elitist angling group, which is exactly what it is. Mr Measham recognised that a membership, whose average age was in the seventies offered little in the way of a future. By changing the name to Wild Fish, Mr Measham hopes that he would attract a wider membership and at the same time attain the financial resources of an organisation like the RSPCA. He can live in hope whilst Wild Fish has any association with angling, which is after all its raison d’etre. Their campaign against salmon farming is a timely reminder that this is one organisation that will probably die with its membership. It is just out of touch, out of date and out of time.
Finally, this image is taken from Twitter and is how Wild Fish seemingly describe themselves:
Out of touch: By coincidence, Wild Fish’s lack of any real concern about safeguarding wild fish except to perpetuate their sport was apparent earlier this month. Wild Fish were one of the signatories on a full-page advert in some Australian newspapers campaigning against the purchase of Tassal salmon by Cooke Aquaculture. Seemingly, they have joined a group based in Argentina named the Global Salmon Farm Resistance (GSFR). Mostly, the members are a group of disparate individuals who seemingly have nothing better to do than whinge about the impact of salmon farming whilst ignoring a great deal of evidence to the contrary.
In other publicity material, GSFR include the names of those supporting the campaign. In the case of Wild Fish, the named person is Rachel Mulrenan, who is deputy Scottish director and another person who remains hidden away.
One factor common to all the staff of Wild Fish is their complete reluctance to engage with anyone from the farming sector that they so readily condemn. I would have thought that an organisation supposedly so passionate about safeguarding wild fish would be speaking to everyone and anyone that might be able to help. Sadly, they simply prefer to hide away in the background, only speaking to those who know less than them.
One other name stood out on the list of supporters of the GSFR and that is the Coastal Communities Network. It is clear that their priority is to campaign against salmon farming, wherever it takes place rather than helping local Scottish communities they claim to represent.
Good year: I’ve written previously that implementation of the Scottish Government’s Wild Fish Strategy appears to have stalled. As yet, no date for a meeting has been fixed and the prospect of a meeting in the new year seems unlikely. It wasn’t that long ago that Fisheries Management Scotland were calling for immediate action to protect Scotland’s wild salmon and yet the strategy is left to gather dust.
Could it be that one reason for a lack of action is that members of the wild fish sector were all too busy out fishing in the present to worry about fate of wild fish stocks in the future. According to STV News, the River Tay has seen one of its best salmon fishing seasons in recent years with catches up by a fifth. Estimates suggest that more tan 5,500 salmon were landed this year.
David Godfrey, a ghillie on the Cargill beat said that it has been the best season for ten years with 425 salmon and 41 sea trout landed. Some of the salmon have been up to 28 lb in weight.
This was the first season without restrictions on travel and hospitality but there was no mention that the good catches were due to increased fishing effort by more visitors.
Meanwhile, the Spey has recorded a catch of 5,439 salmon and grilse, which is close to its ten-year average.
Why is it that catch data can be reported widely in the media, yet the official data will not be published for at least another five months. The salmon farming industry has to report some data weekly, why cannot the wild fish sector do the same? They even have a day off from fishing every week in which to compile the fishing. There was talk that Marine Scotland Science had appointed a consultancy company to look at introducing a more effective method of recording catches but there has been no further mention. I suspect that most proprietors are against change. After all weekly reports that no fish have been caught from their beat is a guaranteed way of deterring visiting anglers.
This begs the usual question, is the wild fish strategy about protecting the fishing or the fish. The answer is clear which is why the wild fish sector are so vocal about salmon farming as this is the one issue that is certain to deflect attention away from their own activities.
We have already seen this week, decisions about salmon farming being made for political reasons rather than fact. The wild fish sector will be delighted that the fishing in 2022 was so good but one good year has happened before. The eventual outlook for wild salmon in Scotland remains the same because the underlying issues have never been addressed.
Trusted data: I continue to explore the sea lice data set posted by Marine Scotland Science on the Scottish Government website. This was made available following an FOI request.
The 21,000 plus fish were sampled between 1997 and 2019 at one hundred different sites across the Scottish west coast, however closer examination of dates and sites would suggest that quite a few sites appear under different names. My guess is that some sites were sampled for a short period and then revisited at a later date but ascribed a different name. Other sites are simply impossible to identify and thus I have tried to engage outside help.
Over the years I have found that the wild fish sector has been reluctant to respond to my enquiries but this time I acknowledge the help of both the Argyll and West Sutherland Fisheries Trusts. I also asked MSS for clarification through an FOI.
The most significant error is that the data set lists sampling at a site in Lochaber named Camas na Gaul, which is near Fort William. Sampling occurred at this site from 2010 to 2019. There is also a site named Camus in Argyll which was sampled from 2002 to 2009.
Lochaber Fisheries Trusts report on their website sampling at Camas na Gaul up to 2009 which would suggest that the site named Camus might be the same as Camas na Gaul and not a site in Argyll at all. MSS have now acknowledged that this might be the case but have yet to amend the spreadsheet. According to an OS map the correct spelling is Camusnagaul.
There is another site in Argyll, named Blackwater. MSS have recently responded with the information that Blackwater is in the Outer Hebrides, yet the local Fisheries Trusts have acknowledged that the site is in the Kilbrannan Sound in Argyll.
Finally, there is a site named Halladale, which MSS place in the area covered by the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust. Halladale is the river Halladale which is outside the salmon farming area. The data exists on the sea lice data set, yet the local fisheries trusts say that they have never sampled for sea lice in that location.
How can we trust any such data when MSS don’t appear to even know where and when sea lice have actually been sampled. This data has been used by MSS to demonstrate the alleged negative impacts of salmon farming. Can they be really so sure of the accuracy of such studies when the data is so riddled with errors?