A Mowi employee inspects a cage at Carradale North after it was returned to position following Storm Ellen in August. Photo: Mowi.

S&TC demands probe into effects of salmon escape

Angling lobby group Salmon and Trout Conservation (S&TC) is attempting to force government agencies in Scotland and England to look into the potential effects of an escape from a Mowi salmon farm in August.

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S&TC, which opposes net pen salmon farming, said today that it had formally notified NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) and the Environment Agency of environmental damage “that either has or may be about to be caused to wild fish stocks” in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) following the escape of 48,000 salmon from the Carradale North farm when it broke free from its moorings during Storm Ellen in August.

The group said that under European law the process requires agencies to undertake formal examinations of what has occurred and do what they can to prevent further damage occurring to the wild salmon populations in the SACs affected.

Enhanced protection

Around 150 of the fish have since been caught by anglers in various rivers from the Firth of Clyde to Cumbria, prompting concerns that other escaped fish could interbreed with wild stocks.

The affected rivers include three SACs – the River Endrick SAC in Scotland and the River Derwent and Bassenthwaite SAC and the River Eden SAC in England – which are subject to enhanced protection under the law in the respective jurisdictions.

Guy Linley-Adams: Claims damage to SACs is either occurring or that there is an imminent threat.

Formal notice

In a press release, S&TC solicitor Guy Linley-Adams, said: “These notifications put NatureScot in Scotland and the Environment Agency in England, the competent enforcing authorities charged with ensuring that the integrity of SACs is maintained, on formal notice that damage to these SACs is either now occurring and/or that there is an imminent threat and that accordingly they should now take any necessary remedial action.”

S&TC said that if either authority finds that damage is occurring, it is obliged to require Mowi to avoid further damage to the conservation status of the habitat and/or species and remedy damage already done.

No action specified

Fish Farming Expert asked S&TC to elaborate on how Mowi could do that, given that it has already repaired the farm that the salmon escaped from.

S&TC Scotland director Andrew Graham-Stewart said: “We will not prescribe what action a competent authority (Nature Scot or the EA) should take. If in due course we deem any such action to be inadequate, then we will consider our options.”

Wild salmon study

Mowi and Fisheries Management Scotland (FMS), which represents district salmon fishery boards and fisheries trusts, yesterday announced an extensive study of wild Atlantic salmon genetics to gauge the impact of any interbreeding between wild and farm-raised salmon following the Carradale escape.

The study will be managed by FMS, supported by Scottish government scientists from Marine Scotland Science and funded by Mowi. The multi-year study of 115 sites aims to confirm the current genetic profile of wild salmon and to track for the potential of genetic changes should interbreeding of farmed and wild salmon occur.