Scotland's Fish Farms, by Wiping out Wild Salmon and Sea Trout, Probably Destroy More Jobs Than They Create. Discard Your Lemon Wedges and Join Me in a Boycott

By Hosking, Patrick | New Statesman (1996), January 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Scotland's Fish Farms, by Wiping out Wild Salmon and Sea Trout, Probably Destroy More Jobs Than They Create. Discard Your Lemon Wedges and Join Me in a Boycott


Hosking, Patrick, New Statesman (1996)


Never mind the health concerns--Scotland's salmon farms should be shut down immediately on grounds aesthetic, environmental, economic, financial and fiscal. Oh, and gastronomical.

The claim the other day in the journal Science that it was unsafe to eat Scottish farmed salmon more than three times a year may or may not be fair. I'm not equipped to make a judgement on quite how much polychlorinated biphenyls the human body can safely ingest. But the case against Scottish salmon farms is compelling even if their produce doesn't give you cancer.

These are ugly, polluting, loss-making, subsidy-hungry flesh factories that seem invariably to besmirch the last few untouched tracts of the British Isles. As you head north towards the tip of the isle of Raasay, Skye's smaller sibling, the single-track road gives up the ghost entirely and nature rules unimpeded and untarnished--except for a socking great chain of horrible cages lying a few yards offshore. At the end of the incomparable Torridon peninsula lies snug little, wineglass-shaped Diabaig bay--perfect but for the hideous fish farm floating in its midst.

Similar eyesores are dotted throughout the Highlands and Islands. The only consolation is that you can't see the fish excrement and chemicals in which the wretched, tail-less creatures have to live. Roughly 60,000 big fish typically occupy a volume of water about the size of three or four suburban semis. A battery chicken lives in comparative splendour.

But what about jobs? In fact, a fish farm is amazingly labour-unintensive. Once built, it needs only two or three men to keep it ticking over. Even researchers for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the quango responsible for nurturing and subsidising fish farms, can dredge up only 4,600 full-time jobs sustained by the industry in the whole region, and that's probably an exaggeration.

Worse, the quango's study makes no allowance for the number of jobs destroyed. There is strong evidence that farmed salmon are wiping out what's left of the populations of wild salmon and sea trout, which pick up lice and disease as they pass the cages on their way upstream to spawn. A single fish farm at a river mouth can affect a vast hinterland of freshwater lochs and burns, deterring fly fishermen who would otherwise pay handsomely to fish in the region. Instead of a labour-intensive, highly skilled army of gillies and hoteliers catering to the needs of the deep-pocketed Sassenachs, there is a low-margin, commoditised industry at the mercy of rock-bottom international prices. …

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Scotland's Fish Farms, by Wiping out Wild Salmon and Sea Trout, Probably Destroy More Jobs Than They Create. Discard Your Lemon Wedges and Join Me in a Boycott
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