A CALL has been made for the Scottish Government to consider jailing those responsible for escapes from fish farms to help save the country's wild salmon stock.

Opponents of the fish farm industry say salmon escapees from fish farms are double the number of wild salmon caught since 2002.

Their analysis of information from the Scottish Government shows more than 3.4 million farmed salmon escaped in nearly 200 incidents since 1998.

Loading article content

They say fewer than one in 20 escapees are caught. Some fish farms involved are infected with disease or use toxic chemicals. Fish farms in Shetland and the Western Isles are held responsible for 72% of all escapes.

Controversial campaigner Don Staniford, director of the Ullapool-based Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, said: "To save Scotland's iconic wild salmon, the Scottish Government must close the net on escapes - and that means rescinding licences for repeat offenders, hefty fines and perhaps even prison sentences."

He said this year got off to a bad start when 154,569 salmon escaped from a Meridian salmon farm off the Shetland island of Yell.

He said: "This damning data blows out of the water claims the Scottish salmon farming industry is operating safely and sustainable."

A spokesman for industry body the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation said: "It is regrettable that occasionally there is a breach of containment from our farms, such as during an extreme storm event like the one which occurred in Shetland in January."

He said the industry makes "huge efforts" to contain farmed fish.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there was a robust regulatory framework that strikes the right balance between growing the fish-farm industry and protecting the environment.