Wednesday, 19 July 2017
The River Coe was fine little Salmon river. Its source high in the tallest mountains of Argyll. Starting as a trickle high up the slopes of Stob nan Cabar and the Lairig Eilde down past the meeting of three waters and Coire Gabhail, with snow melt from Coire nan Lochan, it flows into Loch Achtriochtan. This is where migrating Salmon spawn and from where the starving brown trout leave in summer to go downstream to Loch Leven to return later as silver sea trout, if they survive the ravages of out of control sea lice at the Leven Salmon farm. Migrating fish stocks are in decline, a challenge faced by all the small West coast rivers with fish farms near them.
Salmon face many challenges from birth to the end of their natural cycle. The small fish must survive many more cormorants, heron and goosanders than the past, they exit the river into an enclosed sea loch with a very large Salmon farm facing possible infestation and death from the parasitic sea lice or one of the many diseases intensively farmed fish get. Once in open sea their journey to feeding grounds off the arctic ice is now hundreds of miles longer due to receding sea ice and so many don’t make it there and starve. If they make it they must stay longer to put on weight and be strong enough to make the longer journey back running the gauntlet of seals and illegal netting at sea before coming once more to their native river and the fearsome upriver journey to start the cycle again. Thankfully genetic dilution from escaped farm Salmon is low as they lack the strength to negotiate the lower Falls, and the resilience and strength of the Coe Salmon was legendary as the Coe in full flow is a formidable river.
When you look over the side of the village bridge, and if you see a Salmon under the rock, spare a thought for the four to seven years it’s taken from hatching to making the 4,000-mile return trip home and the fast-turbulent water and many waterfalls it’s got to leap over before laying its eggs once more at Loch Achtriochtan and beginning the cycle again. Not for nothing was “bradan feasa” “the Salmon of Knowledge” part of Celtic mythology and keeper of wisdom. Seeing a fish anywhere let alone at the bridge is now a rare event.
You will note that "was" features in this article. Runs of fish used to be around 200/300 per season. This has declined in the last 30 years to almost zero this season. There are rebound years which possibly correspond with fallowing of the Leven farm. This season the river is empty and any sea trout that are caught are infested with sea lice. Like all fish farms the Leven farm is self regulating with no independent veterinary supervision and no obligation to inform the public of outbreaks of amoebic gill disease, ISA or out of control sea lice. They also claim to use cleaner fish (Wrasse) to control lice and having had the wild Wrasse hunted for that use to the point there are few, now they are trying to rear their own. But they don't work anyway its just a nice ploy to make the public think its a cleaner industry when really its Ivermectin and other toxic pesticides that are used. Pesticides, PCB's and Dioxin trapped in farmed Salmon oil makes it an unhealthy food. While your helping your heart you are increasing your risk of Cancer. In fact many nutritionist's recommend eating farmed Salmon only once a month.
The Leven farm wants to expand even further having just applied for planning permission. The current thinking in the rest of the World is that these farms should be "onshore closed containment installations" to prevent the pollution and degradation of wild stocks. Meanwhile wild fish are almost extinct in their native rivers, an industry that has no outside supervision and control can carry on and do as they want and local communities just sit back and do nothing. Marine Harvest is a Norwegian Company and much of what they get away with here, they can't back in Norway. No one cares that the West Coast migratory fish are wiped off the Earth. Shame on us all if we do nothing.