SNH and EA formally notified of threat of environmental damage from escaped farmed salmon

Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) formally notifies NatureScot (formerly SNH) and the Environment Agency of threat of environmental damage to protected wild salmon SACs following the recent major escape of farmed salmon off the Mull of Kintyre

Following the major escape from a salmon farm off the east side of the Mull of Kintyre in August and the subsequent presence of large numbers of farmed salmon in Scottish and English rivers, Salmon and Trout Conservation has now formally notified the relevant authorities in Scotland and England of  environmental damage to affected Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for wild Atlantic salmon that either has or may about to be caused to wild stocks.

This process, set down in European law, requires both the Environment Agency and NatureScot to undertake formal examinations of what has occurred and do what they can to prevent further damage occurring to the wild salmon populations in the SACs affected.

Almost 50,000 large farmed salmon were able to escape from Mowi (Scotland) Limited’s farm at Carradale North near Campbeltown on August 20. Since then farmed salmon have been caught in considerable numbers in rivers from the Firth of Clyde to Cumbria, prompting concerns that interbreeding with wild salmon will occur with implications for the vital genetic integrity and thus long-term viability of already depleted wild populations.

The affected rivers include three SACs for wild salmon – the River Endrick SAC in Scotland and the River Derwent and Bassenthwaite SAC and the River Eden SAC in England – which are subject to enhanced protection under the law in the respective jurisdictions.

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to Salmon and Trout Conservation, said:

“These notifications put  NatureScot in Scotland and the Environment Agency  in England, the competent enforcing authorities charged with ensuring that the integrity of SACs is maintained, on formal notice that damage to these SACs is either now occurring and/or that there is an imminent threat and that accordingly they should now take any necessary remedial action.”

The notification letter to NatureScot is supported by the Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association (LLAIA), whose responsibilities include much of the River Endrick.

The notification letter to the Environment Agency is supported by North West Angling Trust Fisheries Consultative Council (NWATFCC) which represents the west coast game fisheries of Cumbria and Lancashire.

If either competent authority finds, following notification, that damage is occurring, then it is obliged to require Mowi to avoid further damage to the conservation status of the habitat and/or species and remedy damage already done.



1) The Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), which enshrines the “polluter pays” principle, was adopted in 2004. In Scotland, it takes effect through the Environmental Liability (Scotland) Regulations 2009.  In England it is covered under the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2015

2) Scottish Government confirms that “escaped fish…… have the potential to interbreed with wild fish, leading to dilution of genetic integrity”. Research indicates that interbreeding of farmed with wild salmon results in lowered fitness, with repeated escapes causing cumulative fitness depression and potentially an extinction vortex in vulnerable populations. See, for example, McGinnity et al (2003)