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SOSF renews its call for predator exclusion nets to be made mandatory at all salmon farms in Scotland

Following a landmark court case in Shetland SOSF has renewed its call for predator exclusion nets to be made mandatory at all salmon farms in Scotland.

Rt. Hon. Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment
The Scottish Government

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dear Minister,

I write concerning a court case at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Tuesday 28th May 2013 where Mr. Graham McNally of 89 Sandveien in Lerwick pled guilty to setting nets for the purpose of taking and killing seals at the salmon farm where he worked.

Basically Mr. McNally admitted placing untensioned anti-predator nets to intentionally entangle and drown seals. I urge you to read the background to this case on the Shetland News website: http://www.shetnews.co.uk/archive/search?q=%22Graham+McNally%22&Itemid=313

I think this case reinforces my long-held belief that one of the main reasons only 13% of salmon farms install, maintain and properly use fully tensioned non-lethal predator exclusion nets is because they are expensive to buy and use properly. Killing seals, either legally by shooting under Scottish Government License or illegally by setting loose net traps, is far cheaper and easier than doing the job properly.

For years the Scottish Government has listened to the feeble excuses put forward by the salmon farming industry who do not want to meet the expense of installing and maintaining what should be a basic and essential piece of equipment at all marine salmon farms.

Save Our Seals Fund asks you to take urgent steps to make the deployment of high strength, tensioned seal exclusion nets mandatory at all marine salmon farms in Scotland. Not only will this create more jobs in rural communities it will avoid the United States Government banning the import of salmon produced on 87% of Scottish salmon farms. Last year I asked the USA to use their existing legislation to ban farmed salmon imports from producers who do not meet their legal requirement not to kill marine mammals. I am hopeful the USA will introduce that sanction before the end of this year.

The Scottish salmon farming industry may not think the USA market to be very important at a time when exports to China are soaring. However the Chinese could choose to recognise that most farms in Scotland are Norwegian owned and stop imports for political reasons as they did with direct imports from Norway. The Chinese are also very likely to start producing their own factory farmed Atlantic Salmon and become competitors to instead of consumers of Scottish product.

By finally forcing floating factory fish farms to install the most basic equipment required to stop them shooting seals you would also at long last be meeting your claim that shooting seals is only allowed as a last resort. By protecting seals from persecution by salmon farms you will also be protecting our very valuable and growing wildlife tourism industry which brings in substantial income and supports a diverse range of jobs in our rural coastal communities.

Mr. Lochhead please, just this once, put your little Environment Minister’s bobbly hat on and do something positive to limit the damage you have caused while wearing your more customary costume of Sou’wester, oilskins and wellies in your usual role as the factory fish farmers’ faithful friend.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins, Secretary to Save Our Seals Fund.



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