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SNH toes the government line

The elephant in the newsletter

SNH's latest newsletter comes with a health warning …
SNH's latest newsletter comes with a health warning …

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in its flag-ship magazine, The Nature of Scotland, has achieved a new low. In a feature article in its autumn/winter 2013 edition, ‘Lost at sea?’ the public body managed to highlight wild salmon problems without once mentioning the impact that disease and pollution from west highland and islands salmon farms has had and is having on the species.

The authors of the article are two highly respected fisheries scientists, Dr Peter Hutchinson (pictured, left) of the Edinburgh-based inter-governmental North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation and Dr John Baxter of SNH. Their article promises to provide the reader with “an overview of some fascinating new insights.” The preamble to these fascinating new insights announced that the article would examine why “the numbers [of salmon] returning from the ocean to their natal rivers have been declining.”

There follows, over four pages, a litany of various aspects of the scientific work being carried out: marine sampling, genetic techniques for stock identification, electronic tagging, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and offshore components, climate change, high water temperatures in rivers, and so on. Then, towards the end of the piece, the authors note "the potential impacts of human activities,” … So are they, the reader wonders, at last, going to grasp the nettle and mention fish farms?

Not a chance. Instead they come up with … “such as renewable energy schemes in coastal waters.”

With friends like that our sad, beleaguered wild salmonids certainly don’t need any enemies, I thought as I honked into a sick bag.

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