Protestors make waves for salmon farms

Andrew Holden of Extinction Rebellion Oban gets ready for this weekend's salmon farm pollution protests in waters off Oban.

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Campaigners dressed as a seal in a bullet-proof vest, a lobster in a gas mask and a harbour porpoise in ear defenders will be part of a series of peaceful protests this weekend against alleged salmon farming pollution around the Argyll.

Swimmers, kayakers and rowers will also be joining the protest circling salmon feedlots in the waters off Oban.

Protestors say they will be taking samples of ‘effluents’ discharged from Norwegian-owned Mowi and Scottish Sea Farm sites in the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorn and Loch Linnhe to check for viruses, pathogens, chemicals and contaminants.

Other farms that can expect visitors over the weekend include Rubh an Trilleachain run by Kames Fish Farming in Shuna Sound.

Saturday and Sunday’s action is being organised by Scottish Salmon Watch, which is calling for greater scrutiny of the Scottish salmon farming industry.

A letter sent to Scottish Salmon Watch on behalf of Scottish Sea Farms asked organisers to reconsider their water-based protest saying currents, tides and changeable weather have resulted in several instances of people getting into ‘unexpected difficulty, sometime with fatal results’.

Asking if protestors could find ‘less dangerous means’ of expressing their opinion, the letters also cited dangers of farm equipment being inadvertently moved or loosened and of stressing the fish.

Health and Safety Manager for Scottish Sea Farms Gerry McCormick said: ‘As our letter conveys, our primary concern is for the safety of those being encouraged by Scottish Salmon Watch to join their water-based protest. There are more ways than ever for people to voice their opinion nowadays without putting themselves at risk, but taking to the water isn’t one of them. Our salmon farms, like land-based farms, are places of work and our farm teams undergo rigorous training to operate there safely.’

The Argyll Coast and islands have been declared a Hope Spot – the first in mainland UK – by international nonprofit Mission Blue recognising the work of Coastal Communities Network Scotland raising the need to encourage protection of Scotland’s unique marine ecosystems.

Don Staniford, director of Scottish Salmon Watch, said the protest comes at a time of growing pressure on the Scottish Government to clean up the nation’s salmon industry.

This summer, more than 43,000 people have backed calls by Scottish Salmon Watch and consumer group SumOfUs for Holyrood to force emergency inspections of salmon farms.

He added: ‘Salmon farming in Scotland is dead in the water. If consumers could see the shocking welfare abuse and disease-ridden nature of factory fish farms they would be horrified. Scottish salmon is ethically and environmentally repugnant and should be avoided like the plague.’

Extinction Rebellion Oban is also supporting the campaign.

Mowi and Kames did not respond with a comment.