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The truths they don't want you to read....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Salmon exports to China

Whilst it is undoubtedly Good News that salmon exports to China are growing, the real reasons behind the growth are much less savoury.

These reasons bear some consideration, and the implications for Scotland are much less obvious and savoury than we might like.

It is not that Scotland has succeeded, but more that Norway has been punished.  Norway, you may recall, is held up as a model that Scotland should try to emulate.

So what did Norway do?

Well, the Norwegians had the temerity to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, a move that the Chinese Government didn't like in the slightest.

The end result was a vast hike in import taxes, increased import controls, and a serious attempt at economic payback against a country that only hosts - not awards - the Nobel Institute.

I for one am concerned that Scotland is so happy to be seen to benefit from a superpower trying to gag opponents, and that we are allowing/encouraging the Chinese Government to repeat this effort should anyone else try to raise issues about human rights, executions or economic jiggery-pokery.

Alex Salmond has effectively allowed himself to be boxed into a corner, whereby condemning the abuses of the population in China or Tibet will be met by threats of economic sanctions.

It was not edifying to see Tony Blair cosy up to Gadaffi.  This is no different, and sells the moral high ground to the Chinese; a position we should try to occupy beside the Norwegians.

30 comments:!/pages/Save-the-Bays-of-Harris/190271627716680?sk=wall said...

“Scottish” salmon leaps into China

BBC News reports the “good news” that salmon exports to China are growing, however part of the real story behind the growth is far less palatable.

Far from growing the Scottish economy and employment, the fish farm sector has seen booming returns whilst reducing the actual benefit to Scotland, the Western Isles and other areas blighted by this type of aquatic battery farming. Many of the "Scottish" companies are actually tax-domiciled in the Channel Isles and other low tax regimes with the result that little of the profit arising from destruction of a major economic and environmental asset would stay in the islands or in Scotland. The applicants claim that the Plocropol fish farm would provide “3 to 4 full-time and two part-time employees”. It is doubtful that these would outweigh the damage to the local tourist economy.

The truth about fish farms & the Scottish economy
In 2000 the industry employed 1141 fulltime and 256 part time and produced 128k tonnes (92 tonnes per employee). Expected output for 2010 was 150k tonnes.

In 2009, Scotland-wide employment for fish farming was 874 full time and 89 part time and produced 144k tonnes (150 tonnes per employee).

In 2000, in the Western Isles fish farms employed 261 full time and 15 part time employees. By 2009, this had declined to 184 full time and 10 part time employees.

Fish farm output has risen 12% 2000-2009. Employment has decreased by 24% full time and 65% Part time. This is a decline of 28% in fish farm employment in Scotland in 10 years.

Tourism & the Scottish economy
Tourism in the Outer Hebrides is worth c£50m pa to the local economy, employs 1000 FTE people, and hosts around 200,000 visitors every year. In Harris tourism equates to approximately £12.5m pa value to the local economy. Harris accommodation providers, shops, cafes, visitor attractions, galleries and other businesses are heavily reliant on tourism. One of the key attractions of the Outer Hebrides is the unspoilt natural environment, with visitors rating the scenery and landscape as a major factor in the decision to visit.

Source for tourism statistics: Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association. 2011.
Source for fish farm employment figures: Scottish Fish Farm Survey 2009 report. The Scottish Government. Marine Scotland Science. Written and compiled by AJ Walker. 2010.
No figures were available at the time of the report for the employment statistics for 2010.

Anonymous said...

Nice to have the sovereign wealth to afford a moral stance.

Anonymous said...

Fish farming sucks!

Anonymous said...

Whilst I must concur that the battery farming of pale red fish is a blight, unsavoury and probably harmful to man and sea I must scoff at the NIMBY Harris folk who are suddenly up in arms about it.

Where on these pages in the past few years have the good folk of The Bays protested about any thing relevant to the Isles. Happy as Larry and indifferent to the problems of others until some thing effects them.

Sorry whilst I agree with the argument your protest is but a selfish and shallow challenge.

Anonymous said...

I can't recall the UK government, any of the EU countries, or even Norway raising a fuss when the visa for the Dalai Lama to attend the birthday celebration of Desmond Tutu in South Africa was 'delayed'.

Real politik means that the Chinese can now exert a global influence which extends from Jo'burg to West Loch Tarbert.

Anonymous said...

One statistic missing from the 9.51contributor. Population for Western Isles in 2000 and in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

7.32 Uh what are you talking about?

Anonymous said...


You are incorrect in stating that the 'Bays folk' haven't been involved in in protesting over anything affecting these islands.

For a start, your comment is senseless: are Bays people supposed to attach 'p.s. I am from the Bays of Harris' to their comments on here, just in case somebody such as yourself comes along in the future and presumptuously states that they never do or say anything? How do you know where commenters on any subject on this blog are from?

Added to this is the fact that some from the Bays were involved in protesting (in the real world, not on a blog) against the proposed Broadbay fish farm by attending the meetings organised and helping stop what would have been an entirely inappropriate 'development' in that area.

Ill-informed comments like yours do nothing to help communities having their land and sea exploited by companies whose one and only concern is maximising returns for their shareholders...the environmental cost to those who live there is irrelevant to them.

And no, I'm not from the Bays - but I do know what I'm talking about.

Full marks though to Stewart McLelland of the Scottish Salmon Co. for the sheer smugness he displayed on last night's BBC Scotland program on fish farming. He's obviously not a man of science...or at least science that may interfere with profit forecasts.

Anonymous said...

Population statistics for the Western Isles 2000-2010:

The most recent mid-year population estimates (2010) for the Outer Hebrides (also known as the Western Isles), gives a population of 26,190.
The decline in population over the last ten years (between 2000 and 2010) in the Outer Hebrides was -2.2%

Anonymous said...

Nimby folk in the Bays of Harris??? One of the main trigger's of our protest is over an incident which occurred in Loch Shell, Lewis. That incident related to a fisherman's plea over dead and dying shellfish, poisioned.Wake up boy! Contact us if you want the documents and the current status of this incident. Occurred in 2010, so we didn't start a "sudden" protest. Get some facts, then talk or write. Otherwise, keep quiet.

Anonymous said...

@11:16, what have the Hearach's done to you to deserve such vitriol?

Anonymous said...

1.47 Fish farms are getting bigger, more mechanised and more environmentally damaging. Watch the number of jobs decline and the impact on communities increase.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:42

So in the brave new Scotland, morality is a function of money?

Oh dear, oh dear.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.39 You can only do business with the virtuous; is that what you are saying? Or are you making a general point about the state of a wicked world?

thenamesGerard said...

Ho hum, another anti- development rant. The usual stuff about our "pristine" environment, battery farming etc, etc.

Like it or not salmon farming provides long term sustainable employment in remote areas where work is hard to find.

While I accept tourism is an important industry for the Outer Hebrides, it is exceptionally seasonal. A significant proportion of the jobs it supports are taken by students home for summer and by migrant workers. A significant number of those working in the hospitality industry, who live here, have to sit on their hands through the winter as the hotels, B&Bs, visitor centres etc, lay off most staff or close completely.

I would be wary of using jobs as a comparator with the salmon industry, in general when it talks about FT jobs they are FT year year round. When it talks about PT these jobs are also year round. In tourism the use of FTE tells us more about the number of man-hours than the year through work pattern. In summer a lot of folk work in the industry, the problem is this is in a short busy season. Notably the season is no less busy for the presence of salmon farms. I have seen no convincing evidence that the presence of salmon farms has impacted on tourism in any way what so ever.

I note you compare the value of tourism to the tonnage of salmon, could it be that the value of the salmon at £3-4K/T comes in at £450M per annum? I understand this is a greater export value than all other livestock farmed in Scotland added together. I suspect you would be uncomfortable revealing this. I also see you make no mention of the downstream jobs in processing of the fish and the value of this industry to our economy.

I would like to see a list of the Channel Isles based Scottish salmon companies, I thought the Norwegians were quite open about the fact they own most of world salmon farming. In my view not a much better ownership option than your's. In any case we have a market economy in the UK and cannot control ownership.

You will have to clarify which major economic and environmental asset is being destroyed, perhaps with a scrap of evidence. I know tourists value the environment but not any more than locals. However we have to live here and earn a year round wage.

Salmon farming has been here for over 30 years and still the visitors come. Some even enjoy themselves. I see no conflict between salmon farming and tourism. I hope both industries continue to thrive side by side providing sustainable work and income in remote rural areas.

With regard to the content of the original article.

It is not good that Scottish access to the Chinesse salmon market is a result of Norway's poor treatment, but it is hardly the fault of Alex Salmond. A case of damned if he supports it (China's intervention) and damned (for failing to support the industry) if he does not.

And then there is the cost to Norway. Norwegian companies have major stakes in many of Scotland's salmon companies, so are they really losing or making the same money by another route?

Finally, through the 1980's and 90's the Norwegian Government provided a massive financial safety net for the developing salmon industry, ensuring it had market advantage at the expense of Scotland among other countries. This support has given their industry the scale and strength to dominate world production to this day. Whilst one injustice does not necessarily deserve another, perhaps this action will go some way to redress the balance for those Scottish owned companies which survived in the face of historic unfair competition.

Anon 11:39 said...

Anon 8:34

There is a world of moral difference between using a long spoon to sup with the devil, or running to the moral low ground with open arms.

Alex Salmond seems to be leading the downhill charge to the "business at any price, with anyone".

Not in my name.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.39 Long spoons won't save you if you're supping with the devil. I take it you're a wee bit sore that Iain Gray and his gaggle of incoherent automatons are not in charge.

Anonymous said...

8:36 & 12:13

Clearly a sore point was hit when Harris folk were called NIMBYs'. Tell you what lets rid you of the ugly sore of fish farms - they are a environmental disgrace too.

You take a share of the hundreds of planned 500 foot Lewis wind turbines eh?

And your reply?

Wake up if you think a few cages are a threat to your tourist industy.

Anon 2:32 said...

Anon 2:23

As an SNP voter, I'm very disappointed that they are performing just as poorly as Previous Governments.

I'm also getting very annoyed with the smug attitude of people like you who seem to assume some kind of divine right to power: and one that mustn't be questioned.

The SNP are in power because people voted for them.

The votes will go elsewhere quickly if there is no difference between the parties.

Anonymous said...

For attention of "thenamesGerard" (a fish farmer).
We agree on one thing, that jobs in our communities in Harris are extremely important. You have worked in fish farms for the past 4 years, that is long enough to appreciate the seasonal nature of much fish farm labour, and to know that low paid manual labouring forms the main area of employment in fish farming - is this really going to keep the younger generation on the islands.

This is why it is essential that we also give serious consideration to the jobs that are put at risk by the industrial salmon farming — jobs that vastly outnumber those generated by fish farming. For eg, there are over 1000 jobs in tourism in the Western Isles, worth c£50m pa to the local economy, compared with Western Isles fish farms which by 2009 had declined to 184 full time and 10 part time employees. One of the key attractions of the Outer Hebrides is the unspoilt natural environment, without this, what will attract tourists and keep accommodation providers, shops, cafes, visitor attractions, galleries and other businesses alive, businesses that provide sustainable employment opportunities for future generations?

thenamesGerard said...

Anon 4.29

Firstly yes I am a fish farmer - oysters. I have however worked in Salmon farming on the mainland and have a pretty good understanding of both the industry and its impact on the environment.

I do not hold with arguments about there being a choice between salmon farming and tourism. I have seen no evidence to suggest one negatively affects the other. Other than in the imagination of folk who do not like fish farming.

I am perplexed by the attitude some hold to salmon farming. The language suggests it is a transitory industry and yet we have been farming salmon in the sea for nigh on 40 years. At what point will folk accept it is here to stay?

The references to factory farming or industrial farming serve to raise the emotions but have no real meaning.

Recent fish farming manual jobs advertised down here compared very favourably with those in hotels and as deck crew on fishing boats in terms of salary. No one is promised they will get rich, but they are promised a monthly salary irrespective of the season.

the fact that the jobs are mainly manual is beside the point. Not every one born here wants to go to college or Uni and not everyone wishing to return is highly qualified. What we need is employment to enable people to stay.

So we have had salmon farming for 40 years; we have a smallish number of stable reasonably paid jobs from it; the much predicted environmental catastrophe hasn't happened and doesn't look likely. The visitors still come in large numbers and still believe they are looking at a pristine environment. So salmon farming and tourism coexist, and strengthen our economy. So why the endless negative and largely unfounded comment?

Anonymous said...


"As an SNP voter, I'm very disappointed that they are performing just as poorly as Previous Governments.

I don't think many people blessed with a memory will agree with that statement.

Anonymous said...

The farms currently under planning consideration are not comparable to the fish farming that has existed for the past 30 or so years in the isles. The fish farm proposed at Plocropol is around 7x larger than the one that has existed at nearby Grosebay for the last 30 yrs.

Salmond has thrown Scotland into the global market for farmed salmon without any consideration for the displacement effect on other jobs and industries, or on our fragile economy here, which, however way you like to look at things, depends on tourism, which depends on our so far, unspoilt environment.

There is little benefit to Scotland as Scottish Salmon Company is listed on the junior stock market in Oslo while registered in Jersey, this is not a UK company, contributes 0 to our economy - it is also an umbrella company for many of the others (West Minch Salmon for eg). Check it out!

Anonymous said...

Alex Salmoned...

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Oysterman. Go to Loch Meavag in North Harris. used to be alive with wild oysters, empty shells now mate. Of course that's nothing to do with the big sound of Soay salmon farm next door, they just died of old age.

John Macleod said...

The World is growing and so to is the demand for fish. There will come a point at which there will not be enough fish in the seas so Fish-Farming is here to stay.

That sorted, there will undoubtedly be an appetite for Salmon, and perhaps a premium product - Scottish Salmon.

Feeding this growing world will soon be a challenge and Scotland is ideally placed to try and meet this challenge. To do this, Scotland needs to maximise the potential. The current problem is that there are limited sites where new farms can get started. This is why the farming companies are buying existing small sites and trying to optimise them.

People who stand in the way of this are not contributing positively to these islands and should be ashamed of their selfishness.

Same can be said about those that oppose windmills and wave generators. Scotland is a country of proud grafters, not lazy folk that like to sit back and enjoy the views. Scotland can flourish if people will let us.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry John but there are a few problems with fish farms that you do not seem to be aware of. Fish farming is not sustainable. For example and extract from the ESA:

"The available scientific evidence indicates that some types of aquaculture are on a destructive path that poses a threat not only to wild fish stocks but also to the industry’s own long-term potential. One of the most disturbing trends is the rapid expansion and intensification of shrimp and salmon farming and culture of other high-value carnivorous marine fish such as cod, seabass, and tuna. Production of a single kilogram of these species typically uses two to five kilograms of wild-caught fish processed into fish meal and fish oil for feed.

Besides this direct impact on wild fish stocks, some aquaculture as currently practiced degrades the marine environment and diminishes the ecological life support services it provides to fish, marine mammals, and seabirds, as well as humans. "

Farmed Scottish salmon will never be a premium product because it is reared and fed in the same way as farmed salmon across the world.

Further there are not limited sites for fish farms. There is unlimited space in the ocean, and great potential for fish farms in locations further offshore which would avoid many of the problems associated with close inshore sites. There are also better husbandry techniques that would reduce the chance of disasters such has happened in Loch Shell.

The reason why the fish farm multinationals prefer these sites is simply because they are cheap to run. They will continue to run them badly and unsustainably until governments decide to raise the bar. It is regrettable that Scotland is sending a message that we are open to business at any cost to our environment and communities.

I also question your statement "Scotland can flourish if people will let us." and ask who is 'us', and who exactly is supposedly stopping 'us''?

Anonymous said...

Jimbo MacLeod uttered:

"Same can be said about those that oppose windmills and wave generators."

Who opposes wave generators?

Wind turbines, however, are a waste of time, subsidy and will destroy the tourist industry here. They are ridiculously inefficient, and you can't live near them in high winds as they are too damned noisy.

Building large wind farms across the Hebrides will increase, not decrease, depopulation. Who wants to live in a factory?

Anonymous said...

12.16am. I was told at the weekend of a giant wind turbine (75m high) that is to be built at Nunton Steadings on top of local families and tourism businesses. I am also told that this goes against all council planning rules.

Someone needs to draw a line between sustainable and stupidity.