Update 02/06/2013: Skye Waters Against Fish Farming has been renamed and is now Skye Marine Concern and it has its own dedicated website at www.skyemarineconcern.org.
Skye Waters Against Fish Farming is The Larger Picture’s first campaign. It took off on 8 November 2012 during a presentation about fish farming by Don Staniford, Elena Edwards and Kurt Oddekalv in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College near Armadale on the Isle of Skye (Scotland), and is a direct reaction to plans of fish farming giant Marine Harvest to build a new fish farm in Loch Slapin, close to Loch Eishort. The plan is vehemently opposed by locals, and even more vehemently supported by those who work in the fish farming industry.
Skye Waters Against Fish Farming is not campaigning against the people who work on fish farms, and who depend on that job to feed and shelter their families, but against fish farming as an inherently unsustainable practise. If it can be proven that fish farming can be done without any detrimental effects to wildlife, ecosystems as well as local communities, then all would be alright. At the moment, however, this certainly isn’t the case. Despite claims from the industry that it provides jobs, benefits the local and national economy, and is a sutainable way of harvesting large numbers of fish, findings all over the world point in the opposite direction.
Whilst a new fish farm will indeed provide some jobs, the use of chemicals, the enormous amount of sewage produced by the penned fish and the diseases that transfer from them to wild fish in the surroundings mean that conventional fishermen and -women usually have little left to catch after a short time, meaning the end of their jobs.
Tourists traditionally come to Scotland for the unspoilt views and the wildness. Now seeing so many foreign-owned fish farms in lochs that used to teem with wildlife, those looking for unspoilt areas have to go to other countries, leaving tour operators, B&B and hotel owners, shops, transport etc. with less and less work. When new jobs are mentioned as an argument in favour of fish farming, the loss of other jobs is almost always ignored and certainly not very well documented, because most of the jobs that disappear die a silent death.
The local economy benefits mostly from the wages paid to local workers. Many of the materials and feeds used in the industry do not tend to come from local sources, and most of the real profit of the business goes to the Norwegian corporations and their shareholders. The local economy suffers because so often a good number of other jobs which have been around for many years suddenly disappear. On a national level, and even on a European level, communities pay for at least a part of the building and the running of fish farms through the taxes they pay. Although some money will find its way into the local economy, the overall trend is that money is funneled away out of local, national and even European economies into the pockets of mostly distant shareholders.
As for sustainability, fish farming is an example of intensive farming, which is an inherently unsustainable practise whatever way you do it. Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu and Foot and Mouth Disease are just a few examples of diseases that ravaged intensive husbandry on land over the past few years. In fish farming some of the standard causes of death are sea lice, Amoebic Gill Disease and Columnaris Disease. Many of these can easily transfer from the farmed fish to wild fish in the surroundings. Not only that, but the chemicals used to treat these problems have an enormous effect on wildlife surrounding the farms, often leaving especially the farms which have been placed in a very disease prone location with a collapsed population of wild fish, crustaceans and other species. Many of these chemicals are also used for controlling problems on land, and their use is then often heavily regulated and by law has to be kept far away from water because they have a long-term destructive effect on aquatic life. In fish farming, however, these chemicals are dumped straight into the water. The sewage is another problem, with claims that a standard farm produces the sewage of about 50.000-65.000 people, which is all dumped straight into the sea.
There are many other issues, and the Skye Waters Against Fish Farming page will inform you about them and will keep you up to speed with current developments in research and protest.
The Larger Picture realises that keeping one farm out of Loch Slapin will be only a partial success. The goal is to help stop unsustainable fish farming all around Skye, all around Scotland, and all around the world. To that purpose we will work on networking with other Scottish groups and groups all over the world with the same goal. Find links to them on the links page.