A GOVERNMENT backed project to support the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry has been attacked by a group dedicated to protecting wild salmon and sea trout.
Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project (MIAP) focuses on interactions between salmon aquaculture with wild salmonids on Scotland’s west coast, from Argyll to West Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides.
The aim of the project is to identify areas that are particularly sensitive to wild salmon and sea trout and which the aquaculture industry should avoid if damage to wild stocks is to be minimised.
MIAP is endorsed by a range of organisations, including the Rivers and Fisheries of Scotland (RAFTS), the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), Fish Legal, the Salmon and Trout Association and the Atlantic Salmon Trust.
But Protect Wild Scotland, which describes itself as an independent environmental organisation, said MIAP was a means of expediting and legitimising salmon farming expansion on the west coast, and it ‘considers MIAP as posing a major threat to the wellbeing of wild salmon and sea trout stocks’.
‘For wild fish organisations to participate in a project to expand salmon farming when they have spent years documenting the detrimental effects of salmon farming on sea trout and wild salmon does not add up,’ a Protect Wild Scotland spokesman said.
The promoters of MIAP drew up a map depicting sensitive areas on the west coast where salmon farming might be avoided. They have now requested the cooperation of Scottish government agencies and the fish farming industry to give their recommendations on the areas of sensitivity on the published map.
Highland Council’s aquaculture planners have commented that they are only taking MIAP’s recommendations into consideration on a non-material basis.
Protect Wild Scotland has distributed 800 leaflets to fishery boards, fishery trusts, angling clubs and tackle shops asking: ‘If the primary focus of wild fish organisations, boards and trusts is ultimately to protect wild fishery interests, and MIAP’s main focus is about the expansion of salmon farming, then why have these entities not withdrawn their involvement from MIAP?’
Fish farming in Scotland supports around 8,000 jobs and contributes up to £1.4 billion a year to the economy; the Scottish government aims to increase aquaculture production by 50 per cent by 2020.