Fishing: Why I will not allow myself to eat salmon again

LAST YEAR I wrote about salmon, my most favourite fish of all (living, not dead). I said that it was facing extinction and that I would not eat salmon, wild or farmed, ever again unless I had caught it on a rod and line myself and it had had a fair fight. Since then, I have refined this to not killing one ever, unless it was so badly injured that returning it to the water would be crueller than priesting it, ergo I will never eat salmon again.

Most of us see salmon on the supermarket shelves. This is farmed salmon and it bears almost no relation to its wild cousin. Farmed salmon are kept, hundreds, thousands to a cage, and stuffed full of antibiotics to keep them from getting diseased. They can hardly move; their tails, which should be magnificent, powerful and fan-like are stumpy and nibbled (in boredom, fish do terrible things to each other). Whereas a wild salmon will be (should you ever be lucky enough to see one) torpedo shaped and with fighter genes - the weak ones would long ago have been dealt with by nature - a farmed salmon will be flabby, almost balloon shaped and with any old pissy genes you like.

Because these cages are kept in the sea, off our coastlines, as the wild salmon go past, the sea lice and other parasites that infest the cages think "yippee, new flesh" and attack the wild fish who, because they are not stuffed full of drugs, suffer badly from this barrage, if they survive at all. One particularly lovely parasite is called Gyrodactylus salaris and it covers the salmon, eating it dead. (Sea lice and parasites are an accepted part of sea life, the problem is that the cages concentrate them and act as a breeding ground.) And sometimes these cages break open and the fat, pale salmon get out and breed with the wild fish, thereby introducing their weak genes into the chain.

Why salmon are facing extinction is due to many things, some of them known, some not. Commercial netting - where this is still allowed - pollution, bank erosion that destroys their breeding ground (the place where they were also born and to where they return), environmental changes, genetic weakening by breeding with farmed salmon, and Something Else. Something happens at sea, where they go to feed for a year or three, and we don't know what. "Something terrible is happening in the ocean," says Bill Taylor of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

This year, our government imposed various netting/rod and line restrictions which were the subject of another column. In Maine, in north-east America, the wild Atlantic salmon may be proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Once 500,000 salmon returned to the New England rivers, last year just 60 to 120 found their way back to the rivers in Maine, which is a decline of 99.9 per cent (and it is not due to the salmon's navigation system, which is excellent). If relative figures were applied to something cuddly like pandas or tigers there would be an outcry and once-attractive French actresses would hold press conferences. But we are talking about fish, cold-blooded, slimey creatures that will never grace a chocolate box. You could try to argue here that, by being a fisherman, I am not helping their plight. But you would be wrong.

That I know any of this is because I am a fishermen. Fishermen notice when river banks have been eroded by cattle or sheep, thus making the river too shallow and silty for the salmon to breed in. Fishermen much older and wiser than I first noticed that something was very wrong when they saw the numbers of salmon returning to spawn decrease alarmingly. I spend very much more time learning about salmon and helping their plight than I do fishing for them or eating them. They are, anyway, notoriously difficult to catch.

If you'd like to learn more about salmon there are various bodies that can help such as the North Atlantic Salmon Fund based in Iceland (Skipholti, 105 Reykjavik, Iceland email: nasf@vortex.is). Or, you can email me: a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable