Letters to the editor 20.02.20

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Admiration for fearless campaigner

I read in The Guardian (I live in France so don’t get to read the Lochaber Times that much) that Holly Gillibrand, 15, has been striking to raise people’s awareness of the climate crisis for more than a year now.

For any person, irrespective of age, to choose to strike week after week in all kinds of weather demonstrates a level of commitment most of us never manage to achieve. It’s true, every year millions of people commit to improving their health, fitness, whatever but by the end of February those commitments have been long forgotten. But Holly hasn’t forgotten. She has stuck it out week after week, possibly even experienced ridicule by others, but has continued no matter what.

Holly has demonstrated the utmost resilience and tenacity. I do not have the words to express how courageous she is and what an inspiration to millions of people all over the world.

I would like her to know that millions of people around the world respect and admire her, and say thank you for being such a brave person.

We may be far away, but Holly gives us hope to strike out in our own little way, in our small villages and towns.

Thank you for being so strong and leading the way.

Christine Homer, France.

Studies do not support fish claims

Alastair T Aitken asks (Letters, February 6) whether the undeniable, yet largely unqualified, effect marine farming has on migratory fish stocks been explored. He says he doubts it.

Unfortunately, Mr Aitken is wrong. The impact of salmon farming on wild fish populations has been widely studied. However, the results are rarely discussed, simply because they don’t support the wild fish sector’s narrative that salmon farming is damaging to migratory fish stocks.

One large-scale study from Ireland involved the release of over 350,000 smolts over several years. Half the smolts were treated against sea lice, the parasite usually blamed for the death of wild fish. The other half were untreated. The study found that the mortality of these wild fish due to sea lice was around one per cent. By comparison, about 97 per cent of migrating smolts now fail to return to their home rivers irrespective of whether they are close to salmon farms or not. The reasons for this high mortality are largely unknown.

Since 2017, the Scottish Government has been grading rivers according to their conservation limit. In total, 35 rivers in Scotland have been given the highest grading, of which 13 are located in areas where salmon are farmed. Another 35 rivers have the second-tier grading of which 19 can be found close to salmon farms. If salmon farming was having a negative impact on wild fish, all the rivers on the west coast would be grade 3, which is the worst conservation level, but they are not.

Sea trout catches have been in decline since they were first recorded by the government in 1952. This includes the 30 years prior to the arrival of salmon farming to the west coast. There was no concern expressed at that time. It is only since the arrival of fish farming that wild fish people have found someone to blame.

Salmon farming has become a convenient scapegoat for the decline of wild migratory fish on the west coast, but the reality is very different. Mr Aitken would do well to read ‘Loch Maree’s Missing Sea Trout’ (Amazon), which details the interactions between salmon farms and wild fish using the Loch Maree sea trout fishery as a case study.

It is also worth remembering that since 1952, anglers have caught and killed for sport just over one million migratory fish from the rivers within the area now called the aquaculture zone. These were all fish that had returned to the rivers to breed. It is no wonder that fish stocks are now so threatened.

Dr Martin Jaffa,

Callander McDowell, Manchester.