Fish conservation invokes Europe

Thursday 12th May 2016
Courtesy: Salmon & Trout Conservation, Scotland.

Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland, which represents anglers and fishery owners, has lodged a formal complaint at the Scottish Government's failure to protect wild salmon and sea trout, arguing that this constitutes a breach of European environmental legislation.

​The problems facing our migratory fish are real, present and increasing, notes the website. Marine survival for salmon remains at historically low levels – now for every 100 juvenile fish that go to sea, no more than five will return. It is vital that we do everything to ensure that the maximum number of wild smolts leave our rivers and reach the open ocean safely, and that as many returning adults as possible reach their natal rivers.

  • Salmon abundance (adults returning to our coasts) is now less than 20% of that seen 50 years ago
  • Fish farming is destroying west Highland and Hebridean wild salmon and sea trout stocks
  •  Iconic sea trout fisheries like Loch Maree are no more
  • At least 14,000 Scottish salmon are still killed by coastal netsmen

Anglers have lodged an official complaint with Europe over what they claim is the Scottish Government's failure to protect wild salmon and sea trout claiming they have been left with "no choice" but to ask the European Commission to intervene  over the control of sea lice from fish farms reports The Herald. They say that the marine parasites produced on fish farms harm wild species and they believe the problem is getting worse. A recent study suggesting  that almost 60 per cent of Scottish salmon production failed to adhere to thresholds set out in the industry's Voluntary Code of good practice for numbers of sea lice, which occur naturally on different species of fish.

“The response of the Scottish Government to these threats has been and remains inadequate, “ says (left) Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of STCS (Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland)   "Despite our best efforts over many years, the Scottish Government has not been persuaded of the need to act robustly to deal with the sea lice issue. S&TCS has been left with no choice but to ask the European Commission to intervene.”

Recreational angling bodies have repeatedly called on the government to come down harder on the sector. But it is an industry which  employs more than 2,200 people, many in remote, fragile communities, and around three times that in the supply chain.

Graham-Stewart said European law, in the form of the MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive), required the Government to publish a programme of measures necessary for good environmental status in marine and coastal waters by 2020, and “to put those measures into effect by the end of this year.”   This required protection of wild salmon and sea trout from the threat of sea lice from fish farms. However, the published programme was inadequate to achieve the objectives of the directive, he said and believes the Commission would conclude the Scottish Government's actions were "insufficient and inadequate to comply with European law designed to protect the marine environment." 

The complaint is being submitted ahead of an international meeting in Germany next month on salmon conservation, which will consider the impacts of farming on wild fish. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it had only been informed by the S&TCS of its complaint to Europe earlier this week. She added: “Scotland has a robust legislative and regulatory framework in place which continues to provide the right balance between growing aquaculture and protecting the environment.

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