A NEW ‘salmon interactions’ body that will bring together the farmed and wild salmon sectors is to be chaired by Prince Charles’ advisor on fisheries, John Goodlad.
The group, announced by rural economy minister Fergus Ewing last month at the Aquaculture UK show in Aviemore as part of Scotland’s Farmed Fish Health Framework, will include representatives from both sides of the salmon debate.
Goodlad, as fisheries advisor to Prince Charles’ International Sustainability Unit, has been chairing high level talks between salmon farming companies and the angling lobby for almost two years.
The talks, prompted by Charles’ visit to a Marine Harvest salmon farm in the autumn of 2016, have been conducted in London and at Dumfries House in Scotland and have included Marine Harvest executives, members of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, the Atlantic Salmon Trust (of which Charles is the patron), Fisheries Management Scotland, leading retailers and government officials.
Described by several participants as cordial and constructive, these discussions will have provided a solid basis from which the new body can proceed.
The new salmon interactions group, jointly established by Ewing and environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham, will focus on the decline of wild stocks, which have fallen on both the east and west coasts of Scotland.
Goodlad was the voice of the Shetland fishing industry for many years as CEO of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association. He has also been a fish farmer, currently chairs two fisheries bodies – Fisheries Innovation Scotland and the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group, and is respected by both the farmed and wild salmon sectors.
Ewing praised Goodlad, saying he would bring ‘a wealth of experience’ to the role. The aim was to ‘ensure a sustainable and thriving future for both farmed and wild salmon’.
Goodlad said: ‘I already know that both sectors will be engaging with the process in a positive and enabling manner.’
Although some anti-salmon farming campaigners criticised the move as ‘another PR piece’, the announcement has been well received by fish farmers and fisheries managers.
‘We welcome the appointment of John Goodlad as chair of the interactions workstream and the group’s focus on wild fish populations,’ said Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation.
‘John’s experience in the fisheries sector will undoubtedly bring valuable guidance when considering the complex and varied pressures on wild salmonid populations.’
Dr Alan Wells, chief executive of Fisheries Management Scotland, said: ‘The need to make substantive progress on addressing interactions between farmed and wild fish has been apparent throughout the recent committee inquiries in the Scottish parliament.’
The population of Scottish Atlantic salmon has declined by more than 50 per cent, from around 1.25 million in the 1960s to 600,000 in 2016, said the government.
‘There is no single cause for this decline and some of the impacts on salmon are inevitably beyond our control. It is therefore essential that industry, government and stakeholders work together to manage those pressures which we can control.’
The salmon farming industry has been the subject of two Holyrood inquiries and the latest, by the Rural Economy and Connectivity committee, is now considering evidence collected between March and June and will deliver its recommendations in the autumn.
Picture: John Goodlad will chair the salmon interactions working group