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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 13:40 GMT
Salmon farm escapes 'decreasing'
Fish farm
Fish farms have signed a code of practice
The number of salmon escaping from Scottish fish farms into the wild has halved, according to the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO).

A ministerial group is due to be told that 157,000 fish escaped last year compared with about 300,000 in 2002.

The SSPO contests claims that escaped farmed fish now outnumber wild ones.

Environmentalists and anglers have warned that wild salmon are being weakened genetically by escaped farmed fish.

The SSPO will tell the Ministerial Working Group on Aquaculture that, with the exception of 2005, there has been a significant, declining trend in the number of fish escaping into the wild.

But in 2005, severe storms destroyed several farms leading to more than one million fish escaping from their cages.

Significant loss

The SSPO said that the same year was one of the best years on record for anglers, with more than 80,000 fish caught.

It said that major improvements have taken place in fish farms and this is due, in part, to the industry signing up to a code of good practice launched last year.

SSPO Chief Executive Sid Patten said it is in fish farmers' own interests to prevent escapes as they represent a significant commercial loss for the industry.

"Effective containment is a priority," he said.

"As some 95% of the tonnage of the salmon farming industry has signed up to the Code of Good Practice for Finfish Aquaculture since it was launched in March 2006, we hope this trend will continue."

Bruce Sandison, chairman of the Salmon Farm Protest Group, said: "It is very sad indeed that Sid Patten should so cynically manipulate figures to suggest that his industry has nothing to do with the tragedy overwhelming our wild salmon."

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