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reLAKSation no 1105

This is the last reLAKSation of 2022. Thanks to all for your continued support.

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year and see you again in 2023.


Loch Hourn: As we approach the end of the year, there is some welcome news for the salmon farming sector.  It has been announced that Mowi have won their appeal for their farm in Loch Hourn and rightly so.

Congratulations to Mowi and all involved.


SPILLS: Despite assurances that the report of the Salmon Parasites Interactions study would be published on Monday 19th December, the day came and went without any sign of the report being released. I cannot say that I am surprised. We know from a presentation at Sea Lice 2022 that the three models tested did not live up to expectation with the MSS and SAMS models performing worst. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this outcome is that the actual findings of the study do not match the model.

The problem is that these models form the basis of the proposed SEPA risk assessed framework and if they don’t match what actually happens in the sea then the SEPA model must also be invalid. I can only presume that the continued delay in the publication of this report is to ensure that the findings are presented in the best possible light and to justify the narrative that stringent sea lice controls must be imposed on salmon farms even though, as the Head of Ecology at SEPA, highlighted to the Scottish Parliament’s REC Committee; that sea lice from salmon farms are not responsible for a decline in wild salmon numbers.

Will the SPILLS report ever be published? That is the burning question for 2023.


Another question: The Scottish Government has recently confirmed the latest salmon conservation regulations for 2023. The message to anglers is clearly business as usual. The regulations were fixed after a consultation as to whether catch and release should be made mandatory. Not unexpectedly, the general view from the mainly angling respondents was they wanted the right to continue killing fish.

As far as I can gather, the consultation did not ask the fundamental question as to whether catch and release will actually safeguard the future of wild salmon? The graph produced by Marine Scotland Science illustrating the latest catches would suggest that catch and release, whether voluntary or mandatory does not work.

After catches peaked in 2010, they have since been in decline, despite most fish being released. Catch and release might slow down the inevitable, but it clearly does not stop the decline.

The evidence from the River Dee is even more conclusive. Catch and Release has been mandatory on the river for over twenty years and this measure has failed to stem a long-term decline of salmon stocks in the river, as can be seen from this graph from the FMS Annual Review.

The responses to the consultation make interesting reading and they merit further discussion. This is an issue to which I will return in the New Year.


The big question: Why are wild salmon numbers in decline.? This is the million-dollar question. There are many reasons but it is evident that the wild fish sector cannot let go of the idea that it must be salmon farming who bear the greatest responsibility. This week, Fisheries Management Scotland have issued a position statement on changes to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council salmon standard. They conclude by saying that ‘Fisheries Management Scotland do not see ASC certification as a credible form of protecting wild fish.’

Looking in from the outside, the same can be said about Fisheries Management Scotland. Under their management, wild salmon and sea trout stocks have plummeted and what are they doing about it? Seemingly worrying about aquaculture certification take priority over safeguarding wild fish.

It is interesting that in their response to the consultation, FMS appear more concerned that mandatory catch and release will deter anglers from fishing, yet surely a reduction in fishing effort would be a more effective measure of safeguarding wild fish than anything else. This is why Norway and Ireland close all rivers that have a low conservation status to fishing. Perhaps this should be the debate, not whether catch and release should be mandatory.

As would be expected, Fisheries Management Scotland appear more interested in protecting the fisheries, rather than the fish.


Data: I don’t read comments on Twitter anymore. They are usually from those who appear to have nothing to contribute to the debate, however, I was sent a copy of the following Tweet that was posted in response to the graph which appeared in the last issue of reLAKSation.

A deliberately inflammatory graph?  Could it be that it is considered inflammatory because it shows that salmon farming is not to blame for the declines in wild salmon as confirmed by SEPA’s Peter Pollard. The data comes from Marine Scotland Science and is available to all, yet no-one from the wild sector has used this data since 2011 to try to demonstrate that salmon farming has a negative impact. Could it be that the actual data does not support the narrative?