London SW 13 9EU
26 October 2020
I read Sally Campbell’s excellent article about salmon farm escapes (On Fish Farms by Mowi, Issue 114 September 2020) with a combination of sadness and anger – but not, alas, much surprise.
My family has a long connection with Arran. My mother’s family came from Paisley, and, since the early years of the 20th Century, had spent most of their holidays in Arran (first Brodick, then Corrie). The men in her family were mostly golfers rather than fishers; but when my mother married her English husband (in due course my father), things began to change – if rather slowly, because by the time of their marriage (in Paisley Abbey) in November 1939, WII had already started, so that holidays in Arran – or anywhere else – took something of a back seat for the next 7 or 8 years. In the end, however, sanity was restored and, with it, my father’s passion: fishing. And that, and my mother’s roots, brought us back to Arran in the early 1950s.
I caught my first sea trout, on a worm, in the South Sannox burn in 1954, when I was 13. Thereafter, for the next 40 years, with my father, and with various members of the Logan family as our guides and mentors, I fished almost all the rivers of Arran. Hard work, sometimes, especially when the midges were on the go or the wind was howling in from the West; but after a spate, with the river fining down, a special kind of paradise. Mostly sea trout, but also some fine salmon; and mostly on the fly (except on that most difficult river of all, Sliddery Water, where the worm was ever king).
All good things come to an end, alas. The last Arran sea trout I caught was unrecognisable as a fish: about 1½ lb, I would guess, but covered from head to toe with sea-lice, and plainly dying. So I put it out of its misery with the priest and threw it in the bracken for the crows and gulls. That was in about 1990, shortly before my father died. By then, it had become obvious where the cause of that miserable death must have originated: a salmon farm, or farms – not in Arran, because there were none then – but plainly somewhere on the West coast, and probably close inshore (it is well established that sea trout, unlike salmon, do not head for the icy waters of the northern oceans when they emerge from the rivers of their birth, but rather tend to hug the coasts in search of sustenance).
And this, therefore, is something that might be added to Sally Campbell’s admirable polemic. Not only do salmon farms allow their escapees to pollute the genetic strains of wild salmon by interbreeding, but they threaten the survival of the wild fish, sea trout as well as salmon, by generating vast numbers of sea-lice, especially when they are located in sea lochs which are fed by rivers up which, and then down, the wild salmon and sea trout must run, in obedience to their genetic predisposition to ensure the survival of their species. These ghastly, over-stuffed cages of over-fed table-fodder must also, inevitably, dump tons of excreta into the loch…
And then there are the huge numbers (c 120,000?) of grey seals that infest our coastlines, one of whose favourite meals is young salmon and sea trout as they emerge from our rivers to start the next stage of their lives (if they should be so lucky); but those lovable, furry seals are, of course, a protected species…. But that’s maybe another day’s work.