CALLANDER McDowell has questioned claims that a reduction in the numbers of sea trout is caused by salmon farming which it says is now becoming a convenient scapegoat for too many negative issues.
It refers to a recent report on Fishupdate.com where Oceana claims that sea trout stocks around the Baltic Sea are in a precarious situation.
Recent surveys by the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute have found that the status of sea trout is critically endangered and very few juveniles have been identified, especially around the Gulf of Bothnia.
The latest ICES report indicates that there are over 500 sea trout stocks in the Baltic Sea that have a varying status. A sharp decline in river catches in previous decades combined with a steady decline in the age of sea trout indicates that populations are well below historic levels especially around Finland and Russia.
Callander McDowell, a strategic planning and marketing organisation for aquaculture, says the most interesting aspect of this news is the complete absence of salmon farms in the region. It adds: "In Scotland, the angling fraternity blames salmon farms for the decline in sea trout stock especially along the west coast but as the news from the Baltic clearly illustrates, sea trout stocks are in decline regardless of the alleged impact of salmon farming."
Callander McDowell continues its argument: "It is easy to see why anglers blame salmon farms for the decline in wild sea trout populations around Scotland. The rod catch of sea trout on the west coast is much lower than on the east coast but as the Scottish Government rightly points out in their statistical bulletin the actual fishing effort has not been recorded and the lower catch on the west coast may be the result of reduced fishing activity.
"The angling associations have been blaming salmon farming for all their ills for so long, it would be of no surprise if anglers would prefer to go to the east coast in the hope of a better catch. After all, if an angler is told that he won’t catch anything, then why would he bother even trying.
"Of course, not everyone listens to such allegations, for example anglers visiting the Scourie Hotel in Sutherland caught 403 sea trout in 2011 with 319 the previous year. The catch this year was only 213 but catches do vary from year to year. In total 23,324 sea trout were caught in 2011 around Scotland of which 7,069 were killed and not returned. Given that there is so much concern about sea trout stocks, it is incomprehensible that any sea trout is now killed in Scotland for sport.
"Whilst anglers blame salmon farming for the poor state of sea trout populations, notwithstanding their own efforts to reduce numbers, the state of the stock around the Outer Hebrides is around mid-way between the numbers on the east and west coast.
"The Outer Hebrides has a strong salmon farming industry which would suggest that the low catches on the west coast may be due to other factors besides salmon farming. Unfortunately, salmon farming has become a convenient scapegoat for every negative issue relating to the wild" fish catch. However, the fact that other stocks of sea trout are in equally dire straits shows that salmon farming is not the guilty party it’s made out to be."
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