The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) and Scottish Canoe Association (SCA) have made a joint call for tighter measures to prevent a deadly salmon parasite entering Scottish waters. The two organisations hope that their unprecedented combined effort will lead to the introduction of a high profile campaign at ports and airports to raise awareness of the threat from the Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs) parasite.
The Gs parasite, which has devastated stocks of Atlantic salmon in a number of Norwegian rivers, has the potential to cause massive problems for the Scottish economy. As well as devastating irrevocably Scotland's salmon stocks, it would impact heavily on activities like angling and canoeing. Furthermore, it would seriously affect the image and operation of Scotland's whisky, paper and bottled water industries, as well as every other recreational and business activity that relies on fresh water.
Gs is mainly associated with Scandinavia and Russia, but it has also been found in Germany, France, Spain and Portugal and there is no way of knowing whether other countries have been recently infected, so for everyone travelling abroad and coming into contact with water in rivers and lakes it is vital to follow a few simple precautions before returning to the UK.
Whilst the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) is taking this issue seriously, and organisations like the ASFB and SCA are providing advice for anglers and canoeists on how to avoid accidentally importing Gs into this country, these two bodies believe that more effort should be made, especially by the agencies from south of the border, to tighten our defences against this parasite getting into the country.
The ASFB and SCA are calling on Holyrood and Westminster governments to recognise the threat posed by Gs and to take practical action to raise awareness of the problem. The two organisations would like to see:
- The provision of clear information about Gs at ferry ports and airports.
- The provision of leaflets and posters on ferries linking the UK to Scandinavia.
- Greater effort being made by the Westminster Parliament to encourage the relevant agencies to spread the message across the rest of the British Isles.
Mike Dales, SCA Access and Environment Officer, said "We are doing all we can to raise awareness of the issue amongst canoeists and to recommend ways of disinfecting your equipment, but it concerns us that anyone travelling overseas, especially to Norway where many paddlers go each summer, will not pick up this message at the ferry terminal or on the ferry if they hadn't learned about it before they left home. There needs to be a back stop for those who haven't seen our advice and we are concerned that the authorities are not responding with sufficient urgency to shore up this gap in our defences."
Andrew Wallace, Director of ASFB, "Gs is the single greatest threat salmon stocks in Scotland have ever faced. It is vital that every conceivable effort is made to prevent its introduction. Provision of clear information on its effect and what preventative action people can take is of the highest priority. ASFB commends the 'Home and Dry' awareness campaign spearheaded by the Scottish Executive - however, it concerns us greatly that the ferry, port and airport interests do not appear to be taking sufficient precautions in light of the Scottish Executive's campaign."
The SCA will be keeping paddlers informed of progress with this issue via its website at www.canoescotland.com and The Scottish Paddler magazine. The SCA's advice on Gs can be found at: http://www.canoescotland.com/Default.aspx?PageContentID=153&tabid=340.