Skye Waters Against Fish Farming

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


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.


4 responses to “Skye Waters Against Fish Farming

  1. The catastrophic damage and suffering caused by salmon farms continues daily and goes by unseen by us. We don’t see the stressed fish cramped tightly into pens, harbouring open sores from unavoidable contact and the very painful diseases brought on by the wholly unnatural conditions. And yes, fish feel pain in the same way all of us vertebrates do…that’s scientifically proven. We also don’t see the accumulated damage done to the sea bed by the endless rain of effluent that falls from the pens, a cocktail of excrement mixed with highly toxic chemicals and antibiotics. Nor do we get any idea at all of the havoc that’s been wreaked on the perilously dwindling population of wild salmonids by the sea lice which breed in their billions in every one of these pathogen reservoirs. We don’t see the mackerel, anchovies, sand eels, pout and capelin which are being hoovered out of the seas so that we can get one kilo of diseased, unhealthy fish to eat for every three kilos of wild fish. There are even plans to start harvesting the oceans’ very plankton to make farm feed pellets. What we do get to see is the end product though, those lovely steaks of pink salmon with that natural salmon-pink colour. No, we don’t! The pink dye is added to the feed otherwise the flesh is muddy grey. Wild salmon flesh is pink because they travel the ocean eating a varied diet including plenty of krill. The modern salmon farming industry is, unquestionably, one of the biggest environmental scandals of our day and there’s only two reasons it exists. Greed and consumer ignorance. We really must wake up, wake others up and get a little angry at this crime which is being committed by some of our planet’s wealthiest, holistically disassociated, myopic imbeciles.

    • You are making a case against irresponsible parents, pet owners, fishermen, farmers, the picture you paint bears no relation to a responsible guardian in any sphere, so continue to campaign against irresponsibility, but please do not tarnish the Scottish Aquaculture Industry with this extremist scaremongering.

  2. Arthur, you seem like a nice enough guy, and it’s clear from your posts that you are passionate about your new life in Skye, you’ve discovered something really valuable here, the people, fashioned in many ways by the environment, but you have teamed up with the wrong guy, Don Staniford is using you, you are being misled, his main aim is to promote Don Staniford, what you want to do is concentrate on winning over the local people, they are not stupid, if you treat them with honour and respect you will get a fair hearing, but you have to remember that as it stands in Scotland we are making a good living out of Aquaculture, it’s one of the real success stories in the Highlands, the people of Boreraig and many other cleared communities would love to have had this opportunity, (and as a source of protein Aquaculture makes a lot more sense than beef farming), look to the longer term, work with the people you live amongst and do a bit more listening, we are all impressed that you are a biologist, and no doubt you studied hard to earn your degree, but don’t be misled by him to flaunt it around in an effort to show authority, your arguments betray a lot more gaps than fill ins, get a better understanding of the people, the fragile highland economy, the need to use our natural resources to make a living and the need we have in challenging economic times to support the elderly, the sick and the unemployed, to educate our children, and support our local communities.
    Staniford would shut the farms down tomorrow, he would see our homes repossessed, our families without an income, and he would walts off into the sunset while you continue to live here, and I’m not sure if you have thought it through that far yet.

  3. Alex..hello. Why not move over to using enclosed containers? They are being made now. More expensive to start with but they will last far longer. These ultra wealthy multinational companies can afford problem. Small private farmers would struggle with the outlay but grants could be a solution here perhaps. This solves many of the problems. The waste matter can be cleaned and used as fertiliser. The sea lice problems are more easily dealt with as are all the other diseases. No escapee fish. No spread of infections between pens and other farms by wild foraging fish. Scotland could lead the way here and the fish would no doubt fetch premium prices. If things continue as they are and even more conventional farms are established here we are going to face some serious disease epidemics and no incomes for farmers. Continuous use of antibiotics leads to more resistant diseases and the hot summers we often experience now add to the problem. I’m learning about the industry at the moment largely thanks to the protests over more farms being established here so do correct me where I’m wrong.. I did work on a trout and crayfish farm for a while but I’ve spent most of my time working on terrestrial farms. Fish farming hasn’t been around for so long you know. It’s not a tradition set in stone and the challenges can’t simply be ignored by using more chemicals and drugs all the time.
    Thanks, Duncan

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