Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Protection call for wild salmon and sea trout

Wild salmon
The association has concerns for wild salmon gene pools

A list of sites protected from fish farming development is needed to preserve wild stocks in Scotland, the Salmon and Trout Association has said.

It said a review of scientific research suggested parasites and pollution caused by excrement from farmed fish were killing wild salmon and sea trout.

The body has called on the Scottish government to help with the list.

The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO) said farming was not to blame for wild fish declines.

Technical director Dr John Webster said global warming was mainly responsible for falling numbers.

The Salmon and Trout Association said other threats, included inter-breeding with escaped farmed fish, could harm gene pools.

We are in a period of enormous change driven by global climate change
Dr John Webster
SSPO technical director

Chief executive Paul Knight said the list of "ultra sensitive" sites where fish farms should not be built in the future was needed urgently.

He added: "Aquaculture practised sustainably can offer enormous benefits to mankind and significantly reduce the pressure on our precious wild oceanic stocks.

"But the scientific literature unequivocally demonstrates that fish farms, as presently constructed and operated, are having a disastrous impact on native fisheries, the wider environment and the many public benefits associated with it."

The London-based association was set up in 1903 to push for a clean-up of rivers polluted by factories during the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Webster, of the SSPO, said there was no doubt that wild fish were under pressure.

He said: "But salmon aquaculture is not the thing that is driving this.

"We are in a period of enormous change driven by global climate change.

"The seas are warming. Global climate change is 99% of the problem for wild salmon."

More than 13 million farmed salmon were exported from Scotland last year, according to figures released by the salmon producers' organisation earlier this month.

It said the figure represented a 24% increase in exported fish compared with 2008.

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