Fish Farms and the Decline of Wild Salmon

February 25, 2014

On behalf of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), representing Icelandic and Faroese fisherman, 2007 Goldman Prize winner Orri Vigfusson wrote a strongly worded letter to all Members of Scottish Parliament accusing the country of contributing to a catastrophic decline in north Atlantic wild salmon populations.

The letter came as the strongest international criticism yet of Scotland’s mismanagement of its fisheries. Vigfussion, who was awarded the Prize for his efforts to protect and restore the north Atlantic’s wild salmon stocks, writes:

“Your country encourages and supports the proliferation and expansion of unsustainable fin fish farms. You overfish your fish stocks and you encourage interceptory mixed-stock salmon fisheries that target the fish we have protected while they feed in our waters.

“We have given these salmon safe passage in the belief that they will be allowed to spawn and help restore Scottish rivers. Instead, far from being rebuilt, your salmon abundance has declined by 80-90% in recent decades. This is principally due to the failure of your authorities to manage them properly.”

According to The Guardian article, “Fish farms are destroying wild salmon, says leading environmentalist,” which features Vigfusson, the main threats to wild salmon come from Scotland’s intensive off-shore fish farming operations, which are a breeding ground for sea lice and other ailments that can infect wild salmon populations. Indiscriminate netting of mixed stocks also prevents mature salmon from returning to Scotland’s rivers to spawn, further deteriorating already low stocks.

As the article illustrates the damage one country’s harmful practices can have on the survival of the entire stock of north Atlantic wild salmon, Vigfusson’s work reminds us that environmental protection is indeed a global issue that knows no boundaries.