Letters to the editor – 28.10.21

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Keep public toilets open

We, the undersigned, are members of groups who meet regularly at Ganavan throughout the year. One group meets daily, several meet every week and a few less often. None of these groups is seasonal.

We cannot understand why Argyll and Bute Council regards sport and recreational activities at Ganavan as seasonal.

Ganavan beach and surrounding area is a hub which is used extensively by locals, an increasing number of visitors and ALL of our groups during the entire year.

We need this recognised by Argyll and Bute Council and insist that it is essential that the toilet block be open and available for us all throughout the year, not just April-October. Toilets use is not seasonal.

We understand from two MSPs that the Scottish Government has transferred additional funding to councils for the specific purpose of allowing public toilets to remain open throughout the year. We therefore insist that the toilets at Ganavan can, and MUST, be open to all regular users and visitors throughout the year.

Ganavan Sands parkrun, Macaulay Camanchd Association, Oban Lorn Shinty Club, Oban Celtic Shinty Club, Sofa 2 Summit, Jog Scotland, Adventure Oban, Loch Eck Orienteers, Oban Canoe Club, Oban Boxing Fitness, Oban Sea and Loch Swimmers, Stramash Outdoor Nursery, Oban Wild Swimmers, Oban Mountain Rescue.

A missing and crucial link

It was quite interesting to observe the juxtaposition of two articles on salmon in last week’s Oban Times. A piece on MOWI seeking an injunction against a prominent anti Salmon feedlot campaigner who has extensive knowledge of the environmental impact of the industry in Scotland and Western Canada. Someone who knows how the industry operates and is mentioned in the excellent must read for those wanting to know about the industry, Not on my Watch, by Alexandra Morton. Quite clearly the industry does not like his scrutiny. But someone must speak out.

Then an article on a £1.1million study into the drop in wild salmon numbers and ‘salmon interactions’, and penalties for escapes when SEPA have failed to act for years.

The salmon farming impact is particularly devastating on the West of Scotland. Salmon are in decline for several reasons at sea, but the catastrophic decline on the Scottish West has been going on longer and is directly attributable to the location and impact of salmon farms. This is not unique, as the Canadian and Chilean experience and the many science papers produced confirm this. Chile has thrown them out, and the native Americans on the West of Canada have taken back control of their waters where possible and removed Atlantic Salmon farms so that native Pacific species can return without the introduced infective diseases.

The industry tries to control sea lice infestations and rampant disease, but it’s an impossible task and leaves the food chain polluted and wild salmon close to extirpation.

It is easy to knock an industry who by and large are good employers but whose clout with government is huge due to the economic benefit and so is allowed to get away with just about anything. That they also sponsor sporting events and other good causes makes it all the harder to condemn.

The parallels with a previous time in the West should not be lost. We cleared people for sheep and with rose-tinted glasses we now look on a devastated overgrazed landscape as normal yet talk about rewilding, planting trees, and a greener future.

Salmon farming indirectly closed many bag net stations, ruined once abundant rivers such as the Awe/Orchy system and many once productive spate rivers. Ghillies and fishermen, hotel and boatmen jobs went too. I would argue more jobs lost than gained and less money in local economies as Norwegian and Faroe firms take their profits elsewhere.

Two articles of news in the Oban Times but a missing and crucial link to wild salmon decline not mentioned. Wild salmon in west coast rivers and their migrating offspring and natal sea trout are in trouble where there are salmon farms inshore or offshore on migration routes. The presumption of harm by river owners, crown estate and local councils on the North and East of Scotland and most of England and Wales where there are no salmon farms show more stable wild salmon and sea trout populations and even a harvestable surplus of wild fish hence categorised as level 1 under Marine Scotland regulations.

Virtually the whole of the West of Scotland wild salmon population is level 3 ‘at risk’ or level 2 ‘under threat’. While we watch the Blue Planet and exotic wildlife under threat, we are allowing an environmental disaster in our own local waters and witnessing the extinction of a unique genetic stock of wild salmon. It appears we humans do not have the hazelnut of wisdom to save the keeper of knowledge.

David Gunn, by email