Scotland’s wild fish interests condemn proposals by international conservation organisation to accredit salmon farm companies; scheme dubbed “naïve”, “vague” and “without teeth”.

Scotland’s leading wild fish interests – the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) and the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) – have issued a highly critical response to proposals by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the largest international conservation organisation, to accredit salmon farm companies with “environmentally, socially and economically responsible” operations. Draft Indicators for the scheme have just been published and are due to be finalised following a meeting convened by WWF in Bergen on November 16th and 17th.

The Steering Committee for the US-inspired accreditation scheme is dominated by salmon farming companies with the companies providing all the necessary funding. Scotland’s wild fish interests are adamant that the criteria that the fish farm companies will need to meet for accreditation are no more than woolly aspirations and that they will do nothing to alleviate the existing impact of salmon farming on stocks of wild salmon and sea trout.

Paul Knight, Executive Director of S&TA, said: “It is astonishing that the world’s leading independent conservation body is on the threshold of finalising an accreditation scheme for salmon farming, which will give the recipients a valuable badge of environmental respectability, without proper consultation with European, let alone Scottish, wild fish interests. Indeed the only wild fish interests represented on the Steering Committee are from Chile and British Columbia. Given the failure to consult with Scottish wild fish interests, it is hardly surprising that the concerns that we have been voicing for years have not been addressed”.

Mr Knight continued: “The Draft Indicators as published threaten to standardise flawed operating procedures, rather than tackling the deep-rooted problems associated with salmon aquaculture. Indeed there is little in the document that acknowledges the severe impact salmon aquaculture has inflicted on wild salmon and sea trout and the surrounding freshwater and marine aquatic environment. WWF is playing into the hands of those governments and sections of the industry which continue to deny any adverse impact, despite the wealth of peer reviewed scientific literature to the contrary. Furthermore WWF’s proposed ‘7 Point Plan’ is far too vague and without teeth. Its underlying principle seems to be the need to prove parasite and disease impact on wild salmonids against ambient natural levels before any action is required”.

Andrew Wallace, Managing Director of ASFB and RAFTS, commented: “WWF has an important role as an environmental NGO. However this document will go nowhere near attracting support from the main wild fisheries bodies such as ourselves, unless it is prepared to target, articulate and address some of the obvious existing problems associated with negative interactions between wild fish and farmed fish (whether in the Atlantic or the Pacific). If WWF is not resolute on these matters then its reputation and international credibility will suffer immeasurably. One of the most significant concerns about salmon aquaculture is the impact on wild fisheries. Indications are that this report will not address those concerns as adequately and robustly as we would have expected from one of the world’s largest and most respected environmental NGOs”.

The Draft Indicators can be accessed from the main WWF Salmon Dialogue webpage (www.worldwildlife.org/salmondialogue)

Read the full response from S&TA, ASFB and RAFTS.