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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 17:06 GMT
Pollution fear over fish farms
Fish farm
Fish farms are accused of harming open waters
A trained marine zoologist has passed pictures to the BBC which he says show the damage being caused by fish farms on the west coast of Scotland.

David Ainsley has also given his evidence to the Fisheries Minister, Rhona Brankin, and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa).

Mr Ainsley, who runs a diving business, is opposed to plans for new fish farms in the Firth of Lorn between Argyll and Mull.

The film he passed to the BBC shows rocky reefs and rich marine life.

I'm particularly against any form of intensive factory farming and fish farming is the forgotten factory under the sea in this country

Wendy TurnerTV presenter
But he said there had been a dramatic change in the same area eight weeks after a fish farm opened there.

The seabed is covered in a thick grey silt and many species appear lifeless.

He blamed effluent from the fishfarm and said there would uproar if a land-based company disposed of its waste in this way.

The managing director of Lighthouse Ltd, Iain Somerville, said he accepted fish farming caused some pollution but did not agree that it killed the seabed.

Parliament protest

Meanwhile, television presenter Wendy Turner staged a protest at conditions in fish farms.

Ms Turner, the sister of media star Anthea, sat in a bath of cold water outside the Scottish Parliament to highlight the "cramped" conditions for salmon and trout.

Ms Turner said she wanted to make people aware of the suffering farmed fish experienced.

Wendy Turner protests at the Scottish Parliament
Wendy Turner protested outside parliament
"I don't eat animals and I don't wear them, so I'm against farming of any type," she said.

"I'm particularly against any form of intensive factory farming and fish farming is the forgotten factory under the sea in this country.

"The conditions the fish are kept in, the way they are bred, the way they have to exist and the way they are slaughtered, is something that we would never put up with in a million years if it was other animals.

"What I want to do is to raise awareness of salmon and to try to alleviate their plight."

Salmon 'crammed'

The protest coincided with the publication of research by the Compassion in World Farming Trust, showing that each farmed salmon was allocated the equivalent of a bathtub of water.

Mortality rates among farmed salmon and trout are also very high and the fish are starved for up to 10 days before they are slaughtered.

Peter Stevenson, the trust's political and legal director, said: "Up to 50,000 salmon can be crammed into a single cage.

"In such overcrowded conditions they often suffer blinding cataracts, alarmingly high mortality rates, fin and tail injuries, body deformities and infestation by parasitic sea lice requiring treatment with strong chemical nerve toxins."

Sea lice

Green MSP Robin Harper said he would be making the CIWF report available to other members of his committee.

He said: "There is evidence to suggest that reducing stock levels would reduce disease transfer in the pens and would have a particular effect on the transfer of sea lice between salmon.

"If we could cut sea lice by 50%, we could also cut the amount of chemicals we need to treat them."

John Morrison reports
"The sheltered bays and racing tides are a haven for fish farming."
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Both sides want guidelines laid down"
See also:

16 Nov 01 | Scotland
Call for halt to fish farm expansion
23 Dec 00 | Scotland
Salmon firm takeover blocked
16 Nov 00 | Scotland
Salmon industry cash appeal
02 Nov 00 | Scotland
Salmon bill nets criticism
28 Oct 00 | Scotland
Fishing group drops court action
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