Call for rainbow trout farms to be relocated to land-based sites
21 August, 2007 -
WILD fish interests have today condemned the continuing incidences of “great numbers” of escaped farmed rainbow trout into the Awe system, which includes Argyll’s most important salmon river as well as its main wild trout fishery. According to the organisations, the most recent escape was reported to the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) on August 16. They claim Braevallich Farm on Loch Awe (run by Scot Trout) admitted to losing over 14,000 rainbow trout weighing almost 1lb each due to a hole in a net. “This episode follows two earlier escapes in the loch in around April and June respectively,” a statement issued by the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board today said. “On both these occasions there was no notification by any fish farm of an escape to SEERAD, despite the statutory requirement to do so; subsequently in late June the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board alerted SEERAD and as a result a government inspector visited the farms in July. There was also an escape of large rainbow trout in Loch Etive in July.” Roger Brook, chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, commented: “We have now had four ‘escapes’ of rainbow trout affecting the Awe system in the last five months. Tens of thousands of non-native fish are loose in Loch Awe and the rivers connected to it. When is this going to end? Perhaps we should stop calling them ‘escapes’, which implies cunning fish managing to evade capture. The reality is that these fish are released by the farmers due to their own negligence or the use of inadequate equipment that cannot contain the fish during normal operations of the farms.”
Mr Brook continued: “Loch Awe and the rivers that flow into it are major habitats for Scotland’s wild brown trout and wild juvenile salmon. These continuing escapes are damaging this habitat and there is no doubt that rainbow trout predate on both young brown trout and young salmon. The only solution is to remove freshwater fish farms from within our natural lochs and put them in tanks on land. Over the years the fish farmers have proven that they are incapable of containing their livestock. Three of the four recent escapes were not reported according to the requirements of the law. Why has no one been prosecuted? When will the Scottish Executive take appropriate action to protect the freshwater fisheries of Scotland?” Jamie McGrigor MSP, chairman of the Loch Awe Improvement Association (LAIA), commented: “The trout farms have been in existence on Loch Awe for many years. Originally, when they were first installed, there were a great many escapes. Then security got better. However lately there have been several lapses in security and/or surveillance and as a result there have been some huge escapes this season. These escapes must impact on our wild brown trout as the escaped fish compete for feed and habitat and prey on wild trout ova at spawning time. We do hope that the fish farmers in question will be more vigilant in future.”
Jane Wright, Clerk to the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, added: “The recurring appearance of large numbers of escaped rainbow trout in the Awe system is a further depressing reminder that certain Scottish trout farmers are simply not able to meet their responsibilities for containing their stock. Such poor practice would cause outrage in any terrestrial agricultural practice. These repeated containment failures by some trout farmers increase the threat of the spread of disease, increase the possibility of predation of wild fish, cause havoc with fish counters and undermine the reputation of one of Scotland's great natural assets – its salmon and wild brown trout fisheries. The incidence of serial escapes has become so acute that Scottish rainbow trout farmers need to examine their whole modus operandi as it is clearly unsustainable.”
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