Letter to the Editor

Blairbeg House, Lamlash, Isle of Arran, North Ayrshire, KA27 8JT
Tel: 01770-600822 email: sallya.campbell@btinternet.com

9 November 2020

I wish to thank you for your letter to www.voiceforarran.com regarding salmon farming around Arran. As a marine ecologist, I feel as if we have been fighting this industry ever since John and I came to live on Arran in 2004. I have been writing for the Newsletter almost since its inception, and have researched emissions from the 16 farms in the Clyde, as well as escapes and morts. It is a depressing tale of a huge PR thrust by the companies, and government support over time. The whole of the west coast is suffering the consequences and what were once small biomass farms, run by local people, now large units owned by multinationals, some off-shore for tax purposes, and with automation in feeding etc, fewer locals employed. Sealice decimate wild smolts on their way out to sea, as well as sea trout etc, as you pointed out. Local communities all up the west coast, around sealochs and on the islands have come together to oppose expansion in biomass and new salmon farms, with some isolated success. We need much more clout !

Another major contributor to loss of spawning fish was the opening up of the 3 mile limit in 1984 and trawling and bottom dredging caused great damage to inshore waters. Sea angling all around the Clyde took a huge loss and even the famous Lamlash Fishing Festival stopped in the 1990’s as there was nothing substantial left to catch. The island did fight for, and won, a small no-take zone in Lamlash Bay 10 years ago, and the community also fought an application by Marine Harvest (now Mowi) for a huge salmon farm to the NE of Lamlash Bay in 2008/9, so some measured success over time. The industry requires only modest capital investment to set up and operating penalties are externalised at no cost to themselves, with all their pollution (faeces, waste food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals) to the marine environment so financial risk is low and profitability guaranteed at others’ expense.

A Committee of the Scottish Parliament (The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, ECCLR) in a recent Committee report from the Scottish Parliament on the environmental effect of salmon farming confirmed that: ‘Scotland’s public bodies have a statutory duty to protect biodiversity and this must be to the fore when considering the expansion of the sector.’ under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. So we live in hope! In June 2020 in a breakthrough moment in the UK Fisheries Bill proceedings, the Government made a serious announcement on the ownership of the UK fishery, stating that the public, not businesses or industry, owns the right to fish in UK waters. Another hopeful sign.

Thank you again for your letter to Voice for Arran. It is much appreciated. Hopefully one day you can return in the knowledge healthy sea trout are running again in good numbers and a few hours on one of Arran’s burns will give you immense pleasure. We are trying our best !

Your sincerely,

Sally Campbell


In Letter box of VfA November 2020

88 Castelnau
London SW 13 9EU

26 October 2020

Dear Voice,

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.

Richard Rampton.