Press Release by e-mail from: John F. Robins, Secretary, Save Our Seals Fund (SOSF), C/O Animal Concern, Post Office Box 5178, Dumbarton G82 5YJ. Tel: 01389-841-111, Mobile: 07721-605521. Fax: 0870-7060327. SOSF is a recognised Scottish charity: RCNo. SC025489. E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org website: http://www.saveoursealsfund.
The Scottish Government has heaped praise on a fish farming business in a press statement headlined “Local company is Western Isles success story”. It goes on to describe the company as “A leading Scottish salmon farming business”. When he visited one of the farm’s sites on Benbecula yesterday Scottish Government Minister Joe FitzPatrick pledged his support for “ambitious Scottish companies”. Problem is that despite its name The Scottish Salmon Company is Norwegian owned and has its registered office in the Channel Islands, not the Western Isles. Less than 2% of shares in the company are owned by UK residents.
John Robins of Animal Concern and Save Our Seals Fund has condemned Minister FitzPatrick and the Scottish Government for blindly supporting foreign owned salmon farming companies which are profiting from damaging our marine environment. They have asked the Government to call a moratorium on salmon farm expansion and instead properly address the damage the farms are causing to our marine environment and our tourist industry. Mr. Robins said; “Salmon farmers are killing seals, polluting sea lochs and causing plagues of sealice which kill wild salmon and seatrout. Scottish politicians should be kicking their backsides, not praising them. Tesco recently had to scrap thousands of pounds worth of in-store advertising which was wrongly describing Norwegian salmon as Scottish. Now we have Scottish Ministers trying to pass off Norwegian owned salmon farms with headquarters in tax havens as Scottish. I know Alex Salmond likes to use Norway as a role model. I fear this has blinded him to the great Scandinavian salmon scam which uses and abuses Scotland as a lucrative and convenient way to get around Chinese trade embargoes”.
A copy of our e-mail to Joe FitzPatrick:
Joe FitzPatrick MSP,
Minister for Parliamentary Business,
The Scottish Parliament,
Dear Minister FitzPartrick,
The Scottish Government issued a press release on 15th April with the headline “Local company is Western Isles success story.”. The first sentence reads “A leading Scottish salmon farming business is expanding with the creation of 40 new jobs in Stornoway and the Isle of Lewis”.
The company in question is The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) and later in the press release you are quoted as stating, during a visit to a SSC site on Benbecula;
“The Scottish Government is supporting investment to strengthen the islands traditional industries and to grow new industries of the future. We will also support ambitious Scottish companies as they access new markets.”
As I am sure you would not be involved in deliberately issuing misleading statements to the media I can only assume you have been given erroneous information by your researchers. Sadly you are not the only Scottish Government Minister who has made inaccurate statements about salmon farming. The most common error in Government press statements about salmon farming is the use of the word “sustainable”, a word which cannot be truthfully used to describe salmon farming but which has appeared up to a dozen times in a single Government press release. Your press release does not use the word “sustainable” and I can only hope the message is finally getting through that salmon farming is not sustainable.
Your error is perhaps more forgivable given that the company you visited is called The Scottish Salmon Company. In the intro to the press release it is described as a “Local company” and “A leading Scottish salmon farming business”. In your statement you refer to supporting “ambitious Scottish companies as they access new markets.”
I think you will find that the majority of shares in the Scottish Salmon Company are owned by Norwegian and other foreign interests and that this “local company” is registered in, not the Western Isles, but the Channel Islands. Your researchers would have been able to tell you that if, like myself, they had spent around 3 minutes on the Scottish Salmon Company website. There are little clues on the website including such gems as “The Registrar for the Shares is DnB NOR, N-0021 Oslo, Norway”. Other clues I found were mentions of Norwegian and Jersey tax laws but I found nothing on UK tax. Under the heading “NORWEGIAN TAX MATTERS” it reads “Set out below is a summary of certain Norwegian tax matters related to investments in the Company. SSC is incorporated and has its registered office in Jersey.”
In fact the “local” business referred to by the Scottish Government as a “leading Scottish salmon farming business” and by you as an “ambitious Scottish” company is registered in tax friendly Jersey and has only 1.88% of its shares owned by UK shareholders.
Given the above you may not be aware that about two-thirds of the salmon farms in Scotland are Norwegian owned with profits heading back to Norway, sometimes via tax havens such as Jersey, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Foreign owned salmon farms pollute Scottish seas with chemicals and fish faeces. Infestations of sealice from floating factory fish farms kill wild salmon and seatrout which are worth thousands of pounds each to the Scottish tourist industry when caught and released by anglers. Three or four tonnes of wild fish have to be removed from the marine food chain and turned into food pellets to produce every tonne of farmed salmon. Genetically inferior farmed salmon, many of them raised from imported Norwegian ova, escape into Scottish waters in huge numbers and compete with native wild fish for resources. Instead of insisting that salmon farmers install and maintain proper predator exclusion nets to humanely keep seals away from their stock your Government gives salmon farmers licenses to shoot them. As shown by their use in Visit Scotland campaigns live seals are a tourist attraction. Dead seals on beaches send tourists home never to return to Scotland.
The economics of the global salmon farming industry also leave much to be desired. Because Norwegian owners export salmon from their Scottish based farms to China (which banned direct imports from Norway for political reasons) more and more Norwegian farmed salmon is being imported into the UK to meet domestic demands.
Instead of encouraging the expansion of a foreign owned industry which damages the Scottish marine environment and the Scottish tourist industry while creating profits for foreign owners I ask the Scottish Government to call a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming in Scottish waters and to review the current situation with a view to protecting our marine environment and the creatures which inhabit it. The best way to do this is to ban marine fish-farm cages and replace them with on-shore enclosed pond and tank systems. Until that process can be completed all salmon farms should be legally obliged to install and maintain proper high-strength, high-tensioned predator exclusion nets which humanely keep seals well away from the cage nets holding salmon.
Finally, in relation to your statement that “The Scottish Government is supporting investment to strengthen the islands traditional industries and to grow new industries of the future. We will also support ambitious Scottish companies as they access new markets.” I would be grateful if you would tell me what, if any, financial support the Scottish Government has given to The Scottish Salmon Company in the last five years. If necessary please regard this as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and/or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
John F. Robins,
Secretary to Save Our Seals Fund and Animal Concern