Letters to the editor week 01

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Wild salmon are being sacrificed for profits

Sir,

As chairman of Nether Lochaber Community Council, I am very disappointed at the decision by the Highland Council Planning Committee (South) to grant permission for an expansion of a Marine Harvest Scotland  Loch Leven fish farm, without stipulating a requirement that this be responsive to widespread local concerns over the decline in wild fish stocks.

This is the second expansion of a salmon farm in our area (Gorsten, Ardgour, being the first) granted permission in recent months, despite opposition from the Lochaber Fisheries Trust and Lochaber District Salmon Development Board, local Highland councillors, community councils at Nether Lochaber, Glencoe and Ballachulish, and residents.

This is not only a Lochaber issue, but on the basis of evidence gathered by Marine Science Scotland, one that is affecting the entire west coast of Scotland, while being ignored by the Scottish Government.

There are two main strands to the negative environmental impacts of salmon farms on local biodiversity.

First, the chemical emamectin benzoate, known by its product name Slice, and used to treat sea lice infestation on the farms, has been shown to toxify the seabed in inland waters, killing off native crustaceans. Secondly, the sea lice infestations on farms can increase the lice burden for both wild trout and salmon, particularly on young fish.

Other factors further exacerbate this situation.

Most salmon farms are in sheltered inland waters without strong tidal flows that would inhibit sea lice taking hold in pens. This is likely to be for both the safety and convenience of working in these locations, and to avoid the additional cost to farm salmon producers of siting pens in faster flowing currents.

Also, in recent years sea lice numbers have been shown to spike in warmer average sea temperatures which have been recorded in inland waters such as Loch Leven (up by 1.5 degrees C during 2015-16), reaching numbers that exceed the accepted lice burdens recommended by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation.

In Scotland, the most lucrative wild fishing rivers are protected from the
development of fish farms in their vicinity.

It is as if salmon farms are satellites floating in space, disconnected from local or regional eco-systems, with SEPA limited to regulating their operational standards, SNH commenting solely on their visual impacts in national scenic areas, and MSS not actually being required for planning consultation.

We have a situation where our common natural heritage, such as once abundant wild fisheries in rivers and lochs, is being sacrificed in the name of economics. A situation in which Scottish Government agencies have basically institutionalised degradation of our wild environment. For jobs, apparently.

And if you examine that idea of job creation making this justifiable, consider the number of prawn creel boats that have gone out of business, the complete ban on traditional wild fish netting at river mouths on the West Coast, and whether there are as many opportunities to be a ghillie or water bailiff as there once were.

This is a complex situation, but it needs to be examined honestly and reacted to with joined-up thinking, by the agencies, producers, planners and communities involved, or we will end up in a future without any wild salmonids in areas like Lochaber.

It is, after all, their job of public agencies such as SEPA, SNH, HC, MSS to know what we have and to protect it, not sacrifice it.

Iain Jenner,

Chairman, Nether Lochaber Community Counil.

Generous gifts of donated Gaelic books

Sir,

The Gaelic Books Council would like to warmly thank Acair, Wee Mackay Press and all those who contributed to our Christmas charity campaign, the Gaelic Book-Gifting Tree.

Support from the publishers and customers has allowed the Gaelic Books Council to provide 120 pupils in Gaelic-medium education (GME) who are living in difficult circumstances with Gaelic books for Christmas.

All GME schools were approached in November through Education Scotland’s newsletter asking if they were aware of any families who were particularly struggling at this time of year and who would not otherwise be able to buy a book for their children.

The schools sent the Gaelic Books Council requests for books, which were all added to the gifting tree online and in the Gaelic bookshop. A total of 120 books were added to the tree, for pupils ranging from P1 to P7.

Following a social media and email campaign, £323 worth of books were purchased online and in our shop.

The Gaelic Books Council held a coffee morning during Book Week Scotland, which raised a further £108 to purchase more books. We are hugely grateful to the publishers who supported this campaign, particularly Acair, who are coming to the end of a successful year celebrating their 40th anniversary.

All books were delivered to the schools before the Christmas holidays, to allow them to be distributed to families.

The kindness of those who supported the campaign will allow more young Gaelic readers to enjoy a book on Christmas Day.

The Gaelic Books Council would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Shelagh Chaimbeul (Shelagh Campbell),

Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council).

Misconception over Brexit is common

Sir,

I feel obliged to address a common misconception apparently shared by Iain M MacDonald of Lewis in the Lochaber/Oban Times of December 14 concerning Brexit.

The slogan on the ‘Brexit bus’ said, quite distinctly: ‘We send the EU £350 million a week: let’s fund our NHS instead.’

Nowhere did it say anything about all, or even part, of that sum going directly to the NHS (although I and many others wish it would). It was simply an example of how much we were giving to the EU, and how much better we could spend that sum within the UK.

Davie Kerr,

Onich.

 

Accolade for bus shelter is not deserved

Sir,

I was congratulated recently for helping to get a bus shelter at Ellenabeich. I had to refuse the accolade as it had nothing to do with me.

In the late 1990s, I contracted to build in the square five drystone ‘moles’ to be used as planters, three greenheart benches and to arrange placement of cast steel bollards around the crane which had been brought up from the pier head.

At that time, the plans showed a site for a bus shelter on the wider stretch of pavement between C John Taylor’s and the square. The community council (CC) wanted a stone structure. Argyll and Bute Council refused as in the past these structures had been used as toilets and much else. They offered a standard shelter.

This was refused as, despite the fact it was see-through, it would spoil the view. I offered to hold an auction of people’s bric-a-brac, antiques and collectables to raise the money. I had absolutely no response from the CC.

None the less, I girded up my rain-soaked loins and bought several fair-condition umbrellas and placed them in the telephone box with a note. I also put a notice where the, by now, mythical shelter would never be, saying that people should return them after boarding the bus. They disappeared within a fortnight.

I heard rumours of one being spotted in Clermont-Ferrand, but I took that with a pinch of salt. As in Argyll, it never rains in Clermont-Ferrand.

I took to sheltering in the telephone kiosk and I put in a small wooden stool so I could wait in comfort. I did think of opening a pizza parlour but considered that would only aggravate the problem as there would be no bus shelter for the customers to eat their pizzas.

Sadly, all the rain-soaked waits has taken their toll and I found it more and more difficult because of a chest infection to make it to the square, so I gave up. Very fortunately, many people, being kind beyond the extreme, are willing to take me from door to door, so to speak.

So, to the lady who offered the congratulations for getting a shelter in Ellenabeich: ‘It wisnae me’ – I was too busy taking the antibiotics. Sorry about my attitude: 17 years is a long time to wait for a bus in a shelter which is now in the wrong place so that the tourists’ eyes are not offended.

George Doyle,

Ellenabeich.