Salmon farm water samples delivered to Scottish Parliament

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Samples from public waters around fish farms near Oban were due to be delivered to Scottish ministers this week following a weekend of protests.

Campaigners who circled round various farmed salmon sites took the samples to highlight concerns of potentially toxic pollution being cast into the sea.

They planned to give the samples to Scottish rural economy minister Fergus Ewing and environment cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

Don Staniford, director of the campaign group Scottish Salmon Watch joined the weekend’s protest with his wife Elena Edwards and their two young children Elsie and Finn.

On Sunday they set out from Balvicar boatyard on a boat belonging to Edinburgh-based filmmaker Gavin Turnball with members of the new Oban Extinction Rebellion group, heading for salmon farm sites owned by Norweigan group Mowi.

Mr Staniford said Mowi made it clear they were not welcome.

‘They were trying to keep me away from the site, I got to about one metre away to take a sample but they were wreckless, manoeuvering their boats to block me. They clearly didn’t want us there,’ he said.

The Oban Times contacted Mowi, but the company said it did not wish to comment.

Saturday saw a group of about 12 protestors head out to Scottish Sea Farm sites at Shuna near Appin and to Dunstaffnage. Campaigners with placards lined up on a nearby road at Loch Linnhe.

When the water-bound protestors got to the Shuna site, there were no fish, only the workers on watch, said Mr Staniford. The campaigners had to turn back from the Dunstaffnage site for safety reasons when the weather took a turn for the worse.

Health and Safety Manager for Scottish Sea Farms Gerry McCormick said: ‘Our overriding priority was that anyone participating should remain safe. To help ensure this, we had teams on standby to assist in case anyone got into difficulty while in the water. Only a small handful of adults and their children turned up on the day, but what matters is that each returned home safe and well – that, for us, was key.’

Campaigners are calling for greater scrutiny of the Scottish salmon farming industry.

Mr Staniford said: ‘There are no unannounced inspections by the authorities which gives them time to clean up their act when inspectors do turn up having given them notice. On-the-spot checks are what we are calling for but until that happens, citizens will do the job.’

Protesters claim toxins, chemicals and pathogens are being pumped back into the sea and they hope handing in samples taken this week will support their  appeal for random checks.

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

‘We are a whole community campaigning against what is happening and the damage it is causing. Salmon, seals and lobsters can’t speak for themselves, so we have to be their voice,’ said Mr Staniford.

And Ms Edwards added: ‘These are educated people who do the research and understand the matter. It’s not people who are bored and are looking for something to jump on.’

Andrew Holden from Oban Extinction Rebellion said: ‘There’s nothing good to be said about salmon farming. The only argument for it is possibly jobs but it’s deleted more jobs than it’s created. Very little of the money goes back into the Scottish economy, 99 per cent of sites are Norwegian owned, so using jobs as an excuse is not a reason.’

Mr Staniford said: ‘Those jobs won’t be there in 10 years time. They’re not sustainable. Instead they are leaving a toxic legacy on the seabed, it’s not a price worth paying.’