The Sea Trout Group welcomes the new report from WWF Norway, detailing the adverse effects on wild salmon caused by escapes from salmon farms.
The report (On the run – Escaped farmed fish in Norwegian waters) highlights the fact that around half a million farmed fish – salmon and trout – escape from Norway’s fish cages each year. These fish compete for habitat and food with wild fish. They can also interbreed with wild fish, and there is ample evidence that the resulting offspring are progressively less fit for survival. Farm escapees can also carry disease and sea lice into the wild environment.
Scotland’s official record of salmon farm escapes shows that the number of fish reported as getting out of sea cages has fallen each year since mandatory reporting of escapes was introduced in May 2002. The reported total for 2004 was 91,000. However, on a single night in January 2005, almost 700,000 fish escaped from Scottish sea cages, mainly in the Western Isles. 1
“The new report from WWF confirms the damage which fish farm escapes can cause to wild stocks,” said Sea Trout Group spokesperson Fiona Cameron. “Although it shows that Norway’s record is far from perfect, at least the Norwegian authorities have moved to put stringent new cage construction standards in place.
“Scotland still has no mandatory minimum standard for cage construction, nor for cage maintenance inspection. Since our salmon and sea trout stocks within the areas dominated by fish farming are not seeing the signs of recovery experienced by rivers elsewhere, we cannot afford to lag behind in this. Fish escapes benefit no-one. However, with the current economic situation of the salmon farming industry, we feel it is unlikely that minimum cage standards will be adopted unless the Scottish Executive grasps the nettle of making such standards mandatory. “