Salmon fishing groups have called for urgent action as “unprecedented collapse” of salmon breaks the brave hearts of Argyll.
The 2017 catch from the River Awe in the south-west Highlands is projected to be the lowest since records began.
Scotland MSP’s are set to hold an inquiry into the industry in early 2018, after the rural economy committee studied a petition from Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (STCS) about protecting wild fish from collapse. The fisher groups are struggling to find someone to blame and of course the ‘usual suspects’ are the salmon farms. But this is sheer folly as knowledgeable salmon ecologists and institutions around the North Atlantic and Pacific Salmon pastures point instead to the collapse of the distant ocean pastures that have become ever more clear blue ocean deserts.
This year’s catch from the River Awe in the west of Scotland has only been running at a third of the 2016 count, which was itself only just above the all-time low since records began in 1965. The 2016 total was 807 fish, but STCS said the 2017 catch may “struggle to reach 400”, with 30 weeks of the season already past.
While it is easy to blame the salmon farmers such blame is misplaced as throughout the range of salmon all around the world the same cataclysmic collapse of salmon is being seen whether there are salmon farms present or not. To suggest that juvenile salmon migrating from rivers in the south-west Highlands have to “run the gauntlet” close to lice-producing salmon farms the whole way up the west coast before reaching the open ocean and are thus diminished is in clear opposition to the global salmon crisis.
Fisheries advocates like Director Andrew Graham-Stewart of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (STCS) said the numbers of mature west Highland sea-trout had “collapsed” in the past few decades, and notes that wild salmon numbers were also now in an “accelerating free fall”.
Roger Brook, chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, said rivers like the Awe were facing “a very precarious future”, and called on the government to take emergency action.
Atlantic salmon were once abundant in the rivers of New England, Atlantic Canada, the British Isles and Northern Europe.
They are now endangered or have disappeared in large parts of all of these areas. The salmon are hatched in rivers, and promptly swim to their North Atlantic ocean pastures where, like all livestock, they must successfully graze on the grass/phytoplankton of those pastures if they are to survive, thrive, and return to their natal river to spawn.
13 July 2017 Canadian authorities have just announced that Atlantic Salmon are being counted numbering only 1/5th their recent 5 year average, already dismally low.
“On the Exploits River as of the ninth of July, we only had 2,500 fish pass through the Bishop’s Falls fishway. The corresponding five year average for that facility is 12,700.”
“Similarly low numbers have been reported in Salmon Brook, near Gander, Campbellton on the road to Lewisporte, and Middle Brook”, fisheries managers stated.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation released a report that says total estimated returns of the young fish known as grilse to North America in 2016 was a little more than a half million salmon. That is a 27 percent decrease from the previous year. The group says young salmon who come back to their home rivers years before they reach adulthood when the come home to spawn often revisit their home streams after having spent only one winter at sea. Last year small numbers of returning grilse proved they had suffered a near apocalyptic starvation at sea.
Nothing short of a ‘glorious revolution’ to bring back the fish will suffice.
The greatest threat to the salmon is waiting for someone else to save them.
We agree that emergency action is vital but the action that will BRING BACK THE FISH is not to point fingers of blame at the fish farms but rather to restore the salmon pastures back to health and abundance. That’s a task we know how to accomplish and can do so a very low-cost and immediately.
Every Scotsman knows about pastures on land and that when those pastures are allowed to decline in health and productivity the herds of livestock they can sustain plummets. The same is true for ocean pastures which in the North Atlantic have been in a desperate state of decline for decades. Fisheries advocates and managers have turned a blind eye to the ocean fish pastures as it has working on behalf of those vital ecosystems requires an entirely new set of ideas and skills.
Responding to the alarmist fingers of blame, a spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “We recognize that a number of factors may be having an impact on wild salmon stocks, including the activity of aquaculture, which can result in elevated numbers of sea lice in open water and hence is likely to increase the infestation potential on wild salmons. “The magnitude of any such impact in relation to overall mortality levels is not known for Scotland. Marine Scotland Science has recently commenced a project to address this issue.”
Everywhere on this blog your will find the proof that ocean fish pastures around the world are in a state of collapse that can be immediately and at low cost put right and be brought back to historic levels of health and abundance.
Share this good news and especially ask your MSP to restore Scotland’s ocean pastures to bring back its fish! Join me in the work of Pasture Partners Ecosse.