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BBC Scotland gives fish farm workers a voice in debate

Former Marine Harvest Scotland media spokesman Steve Bracken contributes to tomorrow's Landward programme. Photo: BBC
Former Marine Harvest Scotland media spokesman Steve Bracken contributes to tomorrow's Landward programme. Photo: BBC

Workers from a Scottish salmon farming company will outline the benefits their jobs bring to the community tomorrow as the BBC once again turns its spotlights and cameras on the industry.

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BBC Scotland’s rural magazine programme Landward devotes an hour-long episode to the decline of wild salmon and the argument about whether salmon farms are a breeding ground for sea lice that then attach themselves to the wild fish.

The BBC’s Countryfile programme has previously looked at the issue, and The One Show has featured segments on salmon farm mortalities and the opinions of those for and against a new organic salmon farm on Skye, but it is the first time that ordinary fish farm workers have had their say.

Debate the issue

The Landward episode, titled Saving Our Salmon, is understood to have less of an investigative slant than The One Show and is instead more of an attempt to debate the whole issue by offering balanced coverage of both sides of the argument.

Andrew Graham-Stewart will argue that fish farms are harming wild fish.
Andrew Graham-Stewart will argue that fish farms are harming wild fish.

It will feature a variety of people from both the pro and anti-salmon farming sides, ranging from keen amateur fishermen who are concerned about salmon stocks in rivers, to scientists studying the impacts of sea lice near fish farms on wild fish, through to company spokespeople from Marine Harvest and Cooke Aquaculture and a wild wrasse fisherman on Skye.

The programme will also feature salmon farming opponent Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland and a regular contributor to BBC programmes on the issue.

Access to operations

As well as salmon farm employees, the episode will feature three different salmon farms which gave access to film daily operations.

It will also touch on a recent lice infestation that occurred at a salmon farm in Loch Roag, Lewis, during a period of exceptionally warm sea temperatures. Graham-Stewart has blamed the farm for the spread of large numbers of lice to wild salmon trapped by low river levels in a pool at the shore, although other commentators have pointed out that such infestations have presviously been recorded on fish trapped in pools in warm weather in an era before salmon farming began.

The Landward episode will also cover the fact that wild salmon numbers appear to be falling across the board in Scotland, with stories on both west coast and east coast rivers, but the main focus of the programme is on the west coast and the Northern Isles.

The programme will be broadcast at 9pm on BBC2 Scotland tomorrow, and will be available on iPlayer later.

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