FishUpdate.com, May, 30 2006
FREE TRADE "MADNESS" THREATENS WILD FISH STOCKS IN SCOTLAND
[Rachel's introduction: Since the 1937 Diseases of Fish Act, the import of live salmon into the UK [United Kingdom] has been virtually impossible, but this Act is now subservient to the EU's [European Union's] overriding founding principle of free trade between member states... "It is simply unacceptable for free trade dogma and profit motives to take precedence over the integrity of the health of our native fish stocks. Basic precautionary principles must be upheld."]
SCOTLAND'S wild fish interests are launching a major campaign to expose the serious risk of devastating and deadly fish diseases being introduced to the country through the import of live fish. The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland claim the spread of diseases and parasites in both wild and farmed fish is almost always due to the movement of live fish.
Against a background of some 30 million salmon eggs being imported from Norway to Scotland this year, there is mounting pressure from some Norwegian-owned salmon farming companies for them to be permitted to transfer juvenile salmon to their sites in the west Highlands and the Hebrides. This, the organisations claim, is despite the fact that there is more than adequate capacity within Scotland's salmon smolt producing companies to meet the demands of the industry for juvenile fish -- to the continuing benefit of employment in remote areas of Scotland. In addition some of Scotland's indigenous salmon farmers are fundamentally opposed to live fish imports.
Trade in live fish from Norway is currently prohibited under EU regulations until certain standards within Norway have been achieved and disease free zones have been approved. However it is understood that these conditions could soon be met -- effectively giving the green light to trade in live salmon from Norway. This is despite the fact that Norway currently has a much lower fish health status than the UK where the benefits of island status have long been reinforced by a history of strict fish health controls. Since the 1937 Diseases of Fish Act, the import of live salmon into the UK has been virtually impossible, but this Act is now subservient to the EU's overriding founding principle of free trade between member states and EFTA countries.
Andrew Wallace, Director of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and Policy Director of the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland, explained: "Norway's dubious history of disease prevention and control is ringing serious alarm bells for both Scottish wild fisheries managers and also Scottish fish farmers. Diseases such as Gyrodactylus salaris and Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) are endemic in both Norwegian farmed and wild salmon populations with nine outbreaks of ISA alone in the last year. The trade in live fish is recognised as being the principal means by which these diseases are spread. There therefore can be no doubt that any increase in the trade of live fish will expose the UK's unique fish health position to markedly increased and unacceptable risks. Norway's poor record on disease control was highlighted in the recent EFTA Surveillance Authority report, which does nothing to reassure us that Norway has adequate mechanisms to prevent the export of serious fish diseases to the UK".
Mr Wallace continued: "Live fish imports could have disastrous implications for the conservation status of many of our rivers, 17 of which are specifically designated under the EC Habitats and Species Directive, and also for Scotland's salmon angling industry, which is worth some £80 million a year. We are particularly concerned about the possible introduction of Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs). This is perhaps as serious a disease for salmon health and stocks as Foot and Mouth is for farm livestock -- with one critical difference: once established, Gs could be impossible to eradicate".
Paul Knight, Executive Director of the Salmon and Trout Association, commented: "Live fish imports are completely unnecessary and no matter what safeguards are put in place, they can never be absolute. Just one Gs-infected fish could spell disaster from which recovery may well be impossible. It is simply unacceptable for free trade dogma and profit motives to take precedence over the integrity of the health of our native fish stocks. Basic precautionary principles must be upheld". The campaign against live fish imports has been set in motion by the extensive distribution of a detailed letter, which has been sent to selected MEPs, all MSPs, the DGs of relevant EU Directorates (SANCO / Environment / Fisheries), Scottish Ministers, DEFRA, SEERAD and SNH. The letter is signed by the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland and countersigned by every significant fisheries management and angling body in Scotland together with many others elsewhere in the UK.
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