Fishing Lines: Cold comfort down on the salmon farm

Thought I'd uncovered a stomping story this week: a Pacific humpback salmon being captured in a Scottish river. My source claimed it was a fish-farm escapee. This opened conspiracy theories about some cowboy producer illegally breeding American salmon off the Scottish coast.

In fact, the fish wasn't the big story. It was the fact that Bruce Sandison didn't know about it. And for a very good reason: no Yankee humpie (oversexed, overweight and over here) had been caught. I should have known better; if farmed salmon escape in Scottish waters, Sandison knows about it.

For the past four years he has devoted his life to harassing the Scottish salmon-farming industry (motto: "It wasn't us") every time another batch of their progeny goes wild. Whatever the industry claims, it happens all the time. Last year, 731,000 escaped from a farm on the Isle of Lewis. Another 500,000 got away from a Norwegian farm. Only a couple of weeks ago, another 20,000 did a runner at the Isle of Lewis.

You might think anglers would be delighted at this sudden boost in stocks. But it's very bad news. Farmed escapees now outnumber wild fish. In some Norwegian rivers, they represent 80 per cent of the catch.

Disease is the biggest problem. Rumours are doubtless untrue that farms faced with a batch of fish carrying Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) simply release them to save themselves the hassle of trying to treat it. But farmed fish carry all sorts of nasties and spread parasites.

Until recently, the Scottish Executive's salmon report form told people how to spot farmed fish: they would have small heads, be deformed and have diseased gill covers. Pressure from the farming industry resulted in this helpful guide being omitted.

Farmed fish are more aggressive, so they push wild salmon away from spawning areas. They interbreed with wild fish, affecting genetic diversity. If fish are from the same strain, one disease can wipe the lot out.

You might think an American salmon visiting Scotland is ridiculous. But the odd one, almost certainly escaped from a Russian farm, turns up most years. My story wasn't all that wacky. I should have known, though, that Sandison's contacts would have tipped him off. When something untoward happens, in many cases the authorities only find out when he calls for an explanation.

Ranged against him are multinationals, millions at their disposal, and skilled in manipulating the authorities. He has no money, no financial backing; just a website, www.salmonfarmmonitor.org, which attracts 3,000 hits a year, a lot of people who support him and a driving ambition to force fish farms on to land and away from the sea and river mouths, where they can do such harm.

Sandison hardly fishes any more. "I want to stop these big businesses using our waters as their private toilet, polluting our environment and destroying our heritage," he says. Until rumours of escaped Pacific salmon in Scottish waters stop being credible, he is after bigger fish.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding business based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - Scotland

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas