Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 18:59 UK

Salmon parasite river 'cull' plan

Man fishing
Fish could be poisoned to save the salmon industry

Plans to kill off wild salmon in whole river systems as a last resort to control a virulent parasite have been outlined by the Scottish Government.

The tiny creature, Gyrodactylus salaris, has already devastated wild salmon in Norwegian rivers.

Ministers warned that the damage to the country's 60m freshwater salmon industry would be "immeasurable" if it arrived in Scotland.

The "cull" plan would only be used if an outbreak could not be contained.

A special poison would be released to kill the parasites and their hosts.

Contingency plan

It is hoped parasite-free fish would then repopulate affected rivers.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "The importance of protecting this iconic fish is paramount.

"Its presence in Scottish rivers attracts thousands of tourists to this country every year.

"The damage that Gyrodactylus salaris could do to our freshwater salmon sector, should it arrive in Scotland, is immeasurable and we must do everything we can to ensure we keep it out.

"However, it is also vital that we are prepared to combat the parasite should it be found on our salmon and ready to take whatever action is needed. Any intervention would entail the widest possible consultation with stakeholders."

He said the plan provided a range of measures which could be taken if an outbreak was discovered so that they could act quickly and effectively to protect the industry.

Mr Lochhead added that he was grateful to the fisheries organisations and other stakeholder groups who helped to draw up the plans.

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