Salmon farming and whales

Mirthquake Foundation's statement of support for the Ecohustler salmon campaign

Mirthquake Foundation stands for supporting the ancient and profound relationship between man and cetacean, a bond of fellowship through the ages, recorded in myth, legend and story.

Mirthquake also stands four-square in support of Ecohustler’s campaign to draw considered attention to the cruel, anti-environmental practices of Scottish salmon farming.

Mirthquake fully endorses Ecohustler’s position. Wild salmon, a cetacean staple, are diminishing in number as diseased farm stock escape and breed with wild salmon. The impact of salmon farming practices on both cetaceans and humans, as well as many other species, is demonstrable and considerable.

How intelligent is a whale?_ Close up of a whale eye_

Cetacean welfare is compromised already by numerous callous interventions of mankind: ship-strike, noise pollution, naval sonar experiments, chemical and plastic pollution, by-catch and more. To this egregious list must now be added the damaging effects of Scottish salmon-farming.

The customary diet of many cetaceans includes wild salmon whose numbers and condition are in fast decline. In addition to the genetic miscegenation of wild and farmed fish, diminishing the survival and breeding instincts of the former, must now be added the growing incidence of fish lice widely reported in wild salmon and the substantial tonnage of waste produced.

The recent stories concerning the abject cruelty being meted out on these fish, coupled with extensive die-offs which are buried nearby, is a dreadful and inexcusable indictment of the industry.

The levels of disease prevailing on Scottish fish farms, lice-parasitism afflicting as many as one in five farmed salmon, is well-known to divers who have inspected both the cages, and the underlying bacterial mat of faeces and veterinary treatments building up beneath the cages.

Factory cages for salmon

Operators of Scottish salmon farms have clearly put faith in veterinary science while operating in a benign, perhaps toothless, regulatory environment. In circumstances where operators are plainly failing to meet the challenge of keeping farms clean and sustainable, shareholders, managers, scientific advisers and consumers would all do well to consider whether ever-cheaper, tasteless and medicated salmon should continue to be eaten let alone produced.

It is disingenuous of the Scottish government, reportedly aiming to increase salmon farming by 50% over the next few years, to suggest such an increase will benefit anyone except organisations such as MOWI, while continuing to ravage the remarkable and world-renowned West Coast.

The damage done to the environment by salmon farming off the West Coast of Scotland is well-documented, while financial and political interests remain in full denial. The wild populations have plummeted in all the once-revered rivers of the Highlands – the Tay, Findhorn, Spey, Oykel and Clyde to name a few. The Clyde has its own challenges as Chromium-VI still leaches from the site of a chemical factory closed 50 years ago, doubtless insinuating itself into the domestic and wild aquatic food chain.

Rather than energising the local economy, once a thriving and highly sophisticated culture of neighbourly crofting, salmon farming has devastated everything within its purlieu. It has led to both the toxification and stripping of the seabed and the loss of jobs, none of which have reparation in a salmon farming industry, predominantly foreign-owned and highly automated.

That other fish stocks are decimated for processing the food for farmed salmon is lunacy.

Mirthquake Trustees support the promotion of other forms of sustainable industries along the coasts - oysters, mussels and tangle – rather than continuation of perverse salmon farming.

_Ocean farming has _immense potential to restore our seas

What of the cetaceans in all of this? The Minch, Pentland Firth and Orkney waters have become the new whale watching destination. Twenty-six species of baleen and toothed whales, porpoises and dolphins are regularly spotted here. An increasingly rare North Atlantic Right Whale was recently noted in the Minch, one of only 400 or so remaining, having crossed from the Eastern Seaboard of America.

The Moray Firth is home to a unique population of Bottlenose Dolphins, as the largest in number and size of any resident pod in the world, and further north than any other population. Their bulk, as protection against the colder water, is sustained on the fat of the salmon.

Moray Firth dolphins at play

This pod has been in the Firth at least as long as since the Picts disappeared. They are a touchstone to everyone along both shores, a focal interest to all and on signs and billboards across the Highlands. They bring income from tourism, provide employment and natural history education, locally as well as further afield. A modern indigenous connection to the cetaceans is in play here. The people of the Firth are deeply linked to the dolphins nearby.

The cautionary tale of the Lummi Nation of the coastal region of Washington State should be forever a source of salmon farming shame. The over exploitation of salmon and salmon farming has all but obliterated the wild Pacific salmon population, the staple food of the migratory and resident Orcas inhabiting Lummi sacred waters. So much so, the Lummi have started to feed the Orcas by hand, endeavouring to keep the population viable, for the Orca is ancestor, friend, brother and sister to the Lummi.

The desecration of the king of fish is anti-cetacean, anti-environment and anti-culture. To strive for 'domestication' of the salmon is indicative of the continuing blindness of man to Nature.