Playing Devil’s Advocate over Scottish salmon? (Dec. 2012)

PLAYING Devil’s Advocate? Legal complaint lodged with EC to end salmon angling in some Scottish rivers

Callander McDowell – whose consultant Dr Martin Jaffa is a passionate advocate of the aquaculture industry – has today (Dec. 11) filed a legal complaint to the European Commission alleging that the Scottish Government is failing to meet its wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) conservation responsibilities under the EC Habitats Directive. Callander McDowell says it wants an end to recreational angling of spring salmon to help preserve stocks in 11 rivers designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The complaint comes as the salmon angling lobby is vocal in their criticism of salmon farming, and as a new freshwater fisheries legislation will be debated by an all-party Scottish Parliament committee tomorrow.

One will find below is the statement issued this morning (December 11), un-edited, by Dr Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell, entitled:


Call for end to recreational angling of spring stocks in eleven rivers

Scottish Parliament Committee advised that DSFBs and government failing to comply with EC Habitats Directive

[The remainder of the Callander McDowell press release is below the editorial]


SeafoodIntelligence Editorial

by Bertrand Charron, December 11, 2012

Calls for ends & restrictions of – with 100% catch-and release pending further assessment – (Spring) salmon fishing and angling are not new, they have been issued for decades, and sometimes heard; but they often do not get the same prominence in Scottish media as anti-fish farming stances do. Either ways – whether it be salmon anglers, commercial fishermen, or farmers – human nature (and commercial interests) of concerned parties at local/regional level tends to keep advocating on the side of development rather than conservation.

When salmon (wild, ranched or farmed) – migratory species ignoring national boundaries – or the ‘environment’ (incl. humans and their activities) in general is concerned, impacts’ mitigation can often be considered only when considering the bigger ‘picture’… “think global, act local” (a term coined by a Scottish man, after all) & vice-versa…

Nonetheless, the call by Dr Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell has its merits; the best way to truly conserve wild (Atlantic or Pacific) salmon is indeed and undeniably not to kill them at all. Advocating fishing/killing/eating a wild vs. farmed salmon has never done any salmon any good (and that’s without venturing on the animal welfare side of things)!

There is a perception out there that those opposing salmon farming due to alleged, observed (and there are sometimes plenty of pros & cons; even Science isn’t sometimes ‘an exact science’…)  and/or potential impacts are solely acting as true guardians ofSalmo salar or Oncorhynchus Sp.’s well-being. There are in fact a multitude of facets to farmed salmon opposition – not all without their merits – and some of them find their roots in the angling lobby’s very own economic interests…

Again (legal disclaimer mode…), this is not to be inferred as stating that any one lobby has any less of a ‘rightful’ claim to its share/say of ‘natural resource management’ (a “resource”, after all, is ‘there’ – by definition – to be exploited, right?!) than any other…

Recreational salmon fishing or angling – as pleasurable as it is to Isaac Newton’s disciples (‘tribe’ to which the present writer belongs) – is by definition an anthropocentric activity which can no longer be strictly linked to human preservation, and which shouldn’t occur if it contributes to endangering the ‘hunted’ species. Angling should only take place when it can be sustainably exercised. The many stakeholders of the (salmon/natural) resources should consider stopping systematically blaming others in their search for a ‘culprit’ over a specific stock/species/resource’s decline, whilst all the same demanding a ‘rightful’ and bigger slice of the shrinking cake.

When it comes to Scotland: does a ‘rich’ tourist coming to the Highlands via one or several plane journeys (from England, Europe or further afield) to fish a prestigious beat for a week on a select river for thousands of £££ have a ‘better’ claim to exercising this selfish and immensely pleasurable activity than others? What is the carbon footprint and other impacts associated with such fishing trip on the environment? How/through which economic activity has the environmentally-concerned fisherman gained the monies enabling such trip? Is s/he a wealthy businessman selling cars, steel or oil perhaps; or simply a hard-working financial analyst for a firm trading blue chip stocks or chemical products? What is that professional activity/industry’s own environmental impacts? Is his or her house built with materials whose production is environmentally polluting? Does that person use a bike at home, or has s/he 1, 2 or 3 (polluting) cars? What does that person eat? from where? At what environmental cost? Etc…

One can transpose the ‘Scottish’ fishing example to USA/Alaska, Canada, Norway and/or other ‘select’ fishing destination such as Patagonia or New Zealand; and to other species, environmental degradations, anthropogenic impacts, economic and/or leisure activities.

Of course, there are also many local people fishing less financially-selective wild salmon rivers; but they too impact the global environment in some ways which – in turn – may harm (for instance) salmon returns into their native rivers.

The extent and inter-dependency of all of our footprints and impacts is barely fathomable but one thing is certain: Our relative ignorance doesn’t shield us from taking our individual and collective share of responsibility for the deterioration of our planet’s environmental status, and the ensuing loss of biodiversity. It boils down to personal, economic and political interest(s) – in all the meanings of the term – and choices. It also brings one to question the ethical/moral dimension of our – including in media reporting -subjective views.

It is counterproductive and hypocritical to endlessly ‘shift the blame’; it only leads to one failing to attempt to grasp the core issues and to mitigate the impacts identified… Basically, we should all take a long look at ourselves in the mirror… Nothing is ever just black or white (especially the latter)…

The decline of many wild salmonids stocks (mostly in Northern Hemisphere waters) has been supplemented/mitigated over the past century by the introduction of billions upon billions of hatchery-raised trout and salmon; in North America, Europe and in Asia. France – to name but one – is a country of ~65 million with an angling population of ~2 million; and one would be hard pressed to find a single salmonid stock which has not been genetically-influenced by hatchery releases. In Europe, many salmon and trout rivers have often long (particularly since the industrial era of the mid-XIXth century) been depleted from their truly ‘wild’ fish, and many rely extensively on the operation of the hatcheries which started booming around the world in the late XIXth and early XXth century… But that’s another (though very much linked) topic altogether…

Salmon ‘wars’ have erupted in all countries where salmon farming/aquaculture has been expanding; the latest (recurring for Eire) hotspots are Ireland, New Zealand, Nova Scotia in Canada. Such tensions have been long-established in Scotland and British Columbia in particular.

But prior to salmon farming’s relatively recent (10-20 years) expansion, the notable rivalries which could be observed was between anglers and commercial fishermen, or between fishermen and mining/forestry interests, or between Native fishermen vs. other commercial fishermen, or between anglers/fishers from different nations, or between fishers of one particular species against those of another one… Etc, etc…

Someone has always been blamed (not to say this isn’t also sometimes warranted) for something… for some decline. And of declines and extinctions, there have been plenty… unequivocally! Prof. Callum Roberts’ book ‘Unnatural History of the Sea’ gives an excellent, disturbing and overall historical account of human’s exploitation and predation of the seas over the past centuries; quoting the best recollection of historical records available.

The spectrum of interests & viewpoints is as broad as that of human nature/interests and cultures…

More often than not, only the depiction of one of these lobbies/interests emerges at any one time in any one specific media coverage; giving the impression to an oft-baffled and impressionable/marketable public that a clear dichotomy between right and wrong exists… Nothing could be further from the truth (though it sometimes is)!


PS: Read also, and however, the Herald Scotland (then ‘Glasgow Herald’) editorial which I wrote (in 1994… back in the days).

But do bear in mind it was written 18 years ago when science over the Spring salmon ‘decline’ was in its ‘infancy’, when scientists were starting to grasp the mortality-at-sea concept; and take into account – for leniency – the fact that I was a young/less knowledgeable (not that this has changed that much) journalist back then…




Call for end to recreational angling of spring stocks in eleven rivers

Scottish Parliament Committee advised that DSFBs and government failing to comply with EC Habitats Directive

District Salmon Fishery Boards (DSFBs) and the Scottish Government are failing to meet their conservation responsibilities, according to a complaint submitted to the European Commission.

The complainant, Callander McDowell, wants an end to recreational angling of spring salmon1 to help preserve stocks.

The submission notes that DSFBs and the Scottish Government have failed to protect spring stocks of Atlantic salmon in eleven rivers2 designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), where the stocks are reported to be in long-term decline.

The complaint suggests this is a failure to comply with the EC Habitats Directive and it will be pertinent to a debate on new freshwater fisheries legislation by an all-party Scottish Parliament committee (Wednesday 12th December).

Dr Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell said: “Threatened stocks of wild salmon are being slaughtered in the name of sport and this is happening in specified conservation areas.”

“The Scottish Government has abrogated its conservation responsibilities by passing them on to the District Salmon Fishery Boards who have in turn abused them by not restricting catches of a vulnerable spring stock.

“The Scottish Government should shorten the angling season to encourage early recovery of this stock. Until this can be achieved, 100% mandatory catch and release should be imposed immediately.”

The official catch data from the Scottish Government for the eleven rivers shows that in excess of 46,000 spring salmon have been caught and killed from the SAC rivers since the Habitats Directive came into legislation in 1992.

“Recreational angling that involves the killing of wild salmon is neither in the spirit of conservation nor the Habitats Directive. As it is universally recognised in the scientific community that natural mortality at sea accounts for around 95 per cent of wild salmon deaths, unnecessary killing by recreational anglers when the fish return to spawn reduces even further an at-risk spring stock,” added Dr Jaffa.

The breaches in the EC Habitats Directive include: failing to introduce quotas; failing to restrict the length of the angling season; failing to encourage the consumption of farmed salmon to negate the need to kill wild fish (as required by Article 14 of the Habitats Directive).


Spring salmon are those salmon that return to Scottish rivers during the first half of the year.

The eleven rivers designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are: River Tweed, River Tay, River South Esk, River Dee, River Spey, River Berriedale, River Thurso, River Naver, River Little Gruinard, Grimersta (Langavat) and River Bladnoch.

Catch and release has been increasingly used as a management tool by DSFB’s following recognition of the perilous state of these stocks. But it is not currently mandatory in all Scottish rivers. Where it is practised, anglers are still responsible for the unnecessary deaths of wild salmon.

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee meets this week (Wednesday 12th December) to receive evidence regarding legislative changes in the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill.

Source: Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell pr

On Twitter @Salmoskius:

@ThisIsCalmac Playing devil’s advocate? Legal complaint lodged with EC to end Spring #salmon #angling in 11 Scottish rivers; ‘Gov’t failure’


Sustainable Seafood Intelligence, News & Consultancy for Stakeholders of the Global Seafood, Fisheries & Aquaculture sectors with a focus on issues re. industry Transparency (#Top35Salmon #Top100Seafood), Economic, Social and Environment Sustainability, Ethics (#SeafoodEthics #SustainableSeafood #TransformSeafood #ResponsibleSeafood #SeafoodIntelligence), CSR/RSE & Politics… Perceptions of issues (negative & positive) impacting industry’s Social License to Operate (SLO) and acceptance. Farmed salmon & global seafood industry Sustainability Reporting benchmarks…. Multi-stakeholder sustainability thinking & analysis applied to seafood…