The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) and the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) have expressed fierce criticism at the way in which a senior representative of the Scottish salmon farming industry interpreted data on wild fisheries over the last 50 years on the BBC1 Countryfile programme on Sunday August 16th.

This featured an investigation into the environmental impact of salmon farming, during which the BBC reporter asked Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), if he agreed “that cheap farmed fish can harm wild stocks”.

Mr Landsburgh denied that there was any scientific evidence to prove this, stating that since official records began in 1952 “there has been a decline in the number of wild salmon returning to Scottish rivers year on year” prior to the first fish farm in Scotland in 1972. (For Mr Landsburgh’s full response, see end of this news release below).

Andrew Wallace, Managing Director of ASFB and RAFTS, commented: “We have now produced graphs, based on the official records for wild salmon catches since 1952, which entirely refute Mr Landsburgh’s contention. The figures could not be clearer. In fact the trend from 1952 for the whole of Scotland was most definitely upwards and there was no decline until the mid 1970s. Furthermore the graph for those areas of the west Highlands and Islands affected by salmon farming shows that there was no decline before 1979 and that this only escalated from the late 1980s, coinciding closely with the major expansion of the salmon farming industry.”.

Mr Wallace added: “It is unacceptable that the chief executive of a major trade body, many of whose members are actively involved in trying to resolve these issues through initiatives such as the Tri-Partite Working Group, should draw these conclusions when the evidence is so clear. One wonders just how the SSPO and its members can justify the expenditure of their own and Government’s time and money on solving a problem he apparently fails to even recognise”.

Mr Landsburgh’s full quote when asked if fish farms had harmed stocks of wild fish was: “There is no scientific evidence to prove this. We have heard this before. Since records began there has been a decline in the number of wild salmon returning to Scottish rivers year on year. Records began in 1952. Now in the 20 years to 1972 there were no fish farms in Scotland and that decline was continuing during that time. So we really can’t see any evidence to prove that at all”. The Countryfile programme of August 16 is available on BBC I Player; the report on salmon farming begins at 20 minutes (into the programme) and Mr Landsburgh’s performance begins at 26 minutes.

Graphs, based on the official SEERAD/Scottish Government catch statistics since 1952 (when records began), of wild Scottish salmon catches both nationally and for the salmon farming areas of the west Highlands and Islands are attached.