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August 23, 2017

Local knowledge proves priceless

When community groups publish their annual accounts, a monetary value is usually accorded to the assets of the organisation. These assets will be either be in the form of cash balances or have physical attributes (land, buildings, equipment etc). What we don’t value (at least in monetary terms) is the voluntary time and effort invested, and specialist knowledge and skills that communities amass over time.  As this recent example from Arran illustrates, what value could be put on the local expertise that managed to avert an environmental disaster. Priceless.



Scotland’s inshore fisheries management not fit for purpose

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has withdrawn its application to expand the St Molios salmon fish farm in Lamlash Bay. This follows SEPA admitting to errors in their ecological appraisal which wrongly predicted the expansion would lead to a decrease instead of an increase of toxic Emamectin Benzoate going into the South Arran Marine Protected Area.

With escalating salmon exports – up 70% in the first half of 2017 – the SSC can afford to pay law firms like MacRoberts to manage the case, while the people of Arran have invested thousands of hours to get this SEPA-approved application “called in” by the government. Without the commitment of our community, this expansion would have gone ahead, risking our environment, well-being and livelihoods (salmon aquaculture in Scotland accounts for under 0.1% of employment). 

But the story, unfortunately, does not end here.

The problem of sea lice in intensive salmon farming has led the industry to start to replace chemical treatments with wrasse cleaner fish. To treat 60 million Scottish-farmed salmon, 3 million wrasse are required of which 80% are caught in the wild. Here in the South Arran MPA, local fishermen are being paid by the SSC to fish wrasse but there is no publicly available information on wrasse stocks or landings, no restrictions on catches and no impact assessments required. Is our government giving the salmon farming industry a free ride?

According to Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal: “The salmon farming industry has already destroyed numerous wild salmon and sea trout fisheries on the West Coast of Scotland and now seems intent on doing the same to wild wrasse stocks in the South West of England”. Devon’s Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority has quickly limited this new fishery. However there has been no response to this matter in Scotland, despite concern for wrasse stocks being on the agenda of Scottish Inshore Fishery Groups for years and recent proposals of protecting wrasse from groups like the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust.


This all points to the malfunction of Scotland’s Inshore Fisheries Management. Once again, COAST calls for an urgent reform based on local empowerment, good governance, and social and environmental justice.