S&TC Scotland launches campaign to restore iconic sea trout fishery to its former glory

Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland is mounting a concerted campaign aimed at restoring what was formerly the finest sea trout fishery in Scotland. Sea trout stocks in Loch Maree collapsed in 1988, one year after the start of salmon farming in Loch Ewe, the sea loch into which Loch Maree drains via the River Ewe.

The launch of the campaign was marked last week by a Parliamentary reception at Holyrood at which the new film "The demise of Loch Maree, once the world's finest sea trout fishery" was premiered. The film is a powerful and graphic illustration of how a poorly sited salmon farm can have a devastating impact on what was previously a prolific and entirely sustainable wild fishery. The film may be viewed below:

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TC Scotland, said:

"With the benefit of hindsight, no-one – including Marine Harvest – would have located an open-cage salmon farm in such an enclosed sea loch as Loch Ewe. The consequences for wild sea trout and the world-renowned Loch Maree fishery have been catastrophic. It is surely no coincidence that catches in Loch Maree collapsed within a year of the start of salmon farming in the loch – as the graph below makes abundantly clear – and they have never recovered."

We are also publishing a comprehensive 67 page study – Collapse of Loch Maree sea trout: how culpable is salmon farming? – by Dr Andrew Walker MSc PhD, formerly senior scientist at Scottish Government's Fisheries Research Services (the predecessor to Marine Scotland Science). It concludes that:

"...the introduction of salmon farming in Loch Ewe close to the River Ewe's estuary played a prominent part in the changes in sea trout stock dynamics in the River Ewe system, leading to the collapse of the angling fishery in Loch Maree."

Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TC Scotland, said:

"We fully accept that salmon farming is a very important industry for Scotland. What we are asking for is the relocation of those farms which are simply in the wrong place or are incapable of controlling sea lice and thus are causing significant damage to wild salmon and sea trout stocks."

Andrew Graham-Stewart, added:

"There can be no doubt that sea lice produced on the Loch Ewe farm have been responsible for the crash in the local sea trout population with almost no young fish reaching maturity. Large sea trout are now virtually non-existent. Given the ill-advised location of the farm in a sea loch with limited flushing, even low numbers of sea lice on the farm constitute an efficient breeding facility for these parasites with the inevitable ability to infect juvenile sea trout with lethal consequences. The only viable solution is to remove the farm from Loch Ewe and create a salmon farm-free area – thus giving the formerly great Loch Maree fishery the opportunity to recover."

In September 2015 SEPA reduced the permitted biomass of fish in the Loch Ewe farm from almost 1400 tonnes to 1027 tonnes following unsatisfactory benthic surveys.

Photo caption: At the film's Holyrood launch – front (l to r) Emma Harper MSP, Mairi Evans MSP (event sponsor), Hughie Campbell Adamson (S&TCS Chairman), Finlay Carson MSP; rear – Liam Kerr MSP, Alexander Burnett MSP, Edward Mountain MSP, Peter Chapman MSP, Gordon Lindhurst MSP, Andrew Graham-Stewart (S&TCS Director). Picture available on request

For further information, please contact:

Andrew Graham-Stewart (telephone 01863 766767 or 07812 981531) on behalf of Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland.