Straight talking from Atlantic Salmon campaigner Orri Vigfússon of NASF:

Listeners to Radio Scotland’s New Year´s Newsweek programme heard North Atlantic Salmon Fund Chairman Orri Vigfusson talk about the successes and failures of the fund’s work to restore the low stocks of wild salmon in rivers round the North Atlantic. He was interviewed in Reykjavík by broadcaster Derek Bateman.

Newsweek Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
January 2nd, 2010 – 8:00 AM

”How can you expect to manage Scotland when you cannot even manage one single fish” replied Mr Vigfusson when asked about his dealings with First Minister Alex Salmon and Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead.

Mr. Vigfusson said he believed that conservation agreements with former commercial salmon fishermen had saved about 15 million salmon since the rescue operation began in 1989. These agreements in which the fishermen are paid to stop salmon fishing were introduced by NASF and its partners and now protect the shoals of fish that travel to the salmon’s main oceanic feeding grounds around Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands,

Similar agreements are also in force on salmon migration routes in the North Sea and in the waters off Newfoundland, Labrador, Wales, most of Ireland, France and SW England. The agreements are fully respected by the commercial fishermen and the terms have been adopted or confirmed by the respective governments.

Mr Vigfusson said that the remaining obstacles to the NASF goal of declaring the North Atlantic a sanctuary for wild salmon were proving difficult to remove, thanks to the entrenched attitudes of the Scottish and Norwegian governments.

Barriers of interceptory netting were still confronting salmon returning to the rivers of their birth in Scotland and Norway. As a result far too many of these fish were being caught before they could reach their home rivers to spawn.

Elsewhere the severe damage that commercial fishing was doing to declining stocks had been ended and about 85% of North Atlantic netsmen and longliners had now signed up to stop salmon fishing. Scotland and Norway were utterly out of balance with the rest of the Atlantic salmon countries. By continuing to promote and operate coastal nets in violation of the international scientific advice they were breaking what is now a wide-reaching international solidarity on the need to protect Atlantic salmon.

Criticising Scottish salmon management Mr. Vigfusson said: “Scotland is in a crisis of perception”. He also claimed that in addition to the netting, the fish farming policies of Scotland were disastrous. This had ruined the salmon rivers of the west Scotland and the salmon runs in some rivers were now likely to be beyond repair.

“Sadly, the Scottish Government and many of the river boards do not listen when it comes to constructive management advice,” he added. They also ignored the need to protect sand eel stocks which formed the “bottom of the food chain creatures.” These little fish were a vital food source for the huge shoals of salmon smolts that leave the big east coast rivers of Scotland every spring.

He accused Scotland’s salmon scientists of underestimating the importance of sand eels. He said they seemed to have a passion for research into other problems that the salmon might meet at sea far from their coast.

Finally, Mr Vigfusson criticised the Scottish authorities for supporting ‘a rather unsuccessful Common Fisheries Policy in Brussels’ and failing to co-operate with Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands who were their next door northern neighbours.

Listen to the interview by going to the main BBC website (BBC - Homepage) and select the radio section, click on 'nations and locals' and you'll find BBC Scotland. It will also be available at any time on the 'listen again' function until January 9th. The programme is called NewsWeek Scotland with Derek Bateman. Here is the direct link: BBC iPlayer Console - Newsweek Scotland: 02/01/2010