It is with great concern, and sadness, that we comment on the shocking situation which has unfolded in recent weeks on the Garynahine system in the Outer Hebrides. At the end of July, the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust contacted us with reports of large numbers of heavily lice-infested adult fish, carrying significant skin damage and lesions in the tidal pools below the river. Many of these fish were dead or dying and this event will have a substantial impact on the spawning run of Atlantic salmon bound for the Garynahine system. Heavily-liced fish were also reported in July from the Grimersta, part of the Langavat SAC for Atlantic salmon.
Both the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland contacted Marine Scotland and the Fish Health Inspectorate, and wild fish were sampled at that time. We have been in regular contact with Marine Scotland since then, to keep them appraised of the situation. Wild fish were netted, under a Scottish Government licence, from the sea pools and relocated upstream into the river with a view to giving these fish some chance of surviving. The numerous images and videos taken by the trust, local keepers, and concerned individuals speak for themselves. Atlantic salmon carrying burdens of over 600 mobile sea lice simply will not survive and we understand why people are justifiably angry.
We note that the SalmonBusiness website have issued a hard-hitting critique of the situation. It is hard to disagree with the view they express.
Fisheries Management Scotland has long called for significant changes to the regulatory system for aquaculture. The current situation, where the regulatory system considers only the health and welfare of the fish within the cages, but cannot react to impacts on wild fish, is not tenable. For too long the regulatory system has addressed farmed fish health in isolation from the health of wild fish, but as the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee concluded, the status quo is not an option. Fisheries Management Scotland will be playing a key role in the forthcoming Scottish Government Interactions Working Group with a view to securing significant changes to the regulatory regime in Scotland for the benefit of wild fish. Our stakeholders would expect no less.