The Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board (ADSFB) has highlighted the issue of “escapes” of rainbow trout in its latest response to the application by Dawnfresh for a new fish farm on Loch Etive (north of Oban).

This follows reports of an escape of rainbow trout from Dawnfresh’s farm on Loch Awe at the end of June. Subsequently rainbow trout were caught by salmon anglers downstream in the River Awe. They reported the escape to the ADSFB and Dawnfresh; worryingly the company had been unaware of this loss of fish.

Roger Brook, Chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, commented: “Dawnfresh has a lamentable record of allowing its fish to escape into the wider environment. The integrity of the River Awe as a wild salmon river comes under regular attack at both ends – from large rainbow trout coming up from Loch Etive and from small rainbow trout infesting Loch Awe at the top. Yet another massive farm in Loch Etive, close to the mouth of the river, will only exacerbate the problems we have experienced over the last few years”.

Mr Brook continued: “The word ‘escape’ is something of a misnomer in that it implies cunning fish managing to evade capture. The reality is that these fish are released by Dawnfresh either due to their own negligence or the use of inadequate equipment that cannot contain the fish during normal operations of the farms. Continuing escapes damage the wild fish populations of the Awe and there is no doubt that large rainbow trout predate on young salmon before and as they migrate to sea. Inevitably this compromises the number of adult salmon that return from their ocean migrations”.

Dawnfresh’s failure to contain its stock is not limited to Argyll. The Fish Health Inspectorate has confirmed that it lost over 7,000 rainbow trout due to a tear in a net at its operation in Loch Earn in Perthshire in May.