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SNP European Fisheries Spokesperson, Ian Hudghton MEP is demanding that the EU take "immediate action" to protect Scotland's salmon stocks from imports of diseased Norwegian fish. Concern is widespread that fish infected by the highly contagious Gyrodactylus salaris and Infectious Salmon Anaemia could blight our salmon stocks unless an immediate ban is imposed on smolts and eggs from Norway.
Although a new Directive on aquatic animal health is due to be implemented next year, Mr Hudghton says that could prove too late for Scotland's salmon. The MEP says action needs to be taken now and has written today to Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, pointing out that the Atlantic salmon is protected under the Habitats Directive.
Speaking from Parliament in Strasbourg, the SNP
"Scotland's salmon rivers are of world-wide renown and are extremely important to our country's economy, providing full-time work for over 2,000 people and earning over £70m for our economy each year. Recognising their importance, the Scottish Government has granted special conservation area status to eight of our salmon rivers and ear-marked over £3 million to protect and preserve the river habitats in which the Atlantic salmon spawns. Half of this total is coming from the EU's LIFE-Nature programme.
"Unless the threat posed by Norwegian imports is recognised and urgent action taken, we'd be as well pouring that money down the drain.
"An EU report last year confirmed that diseases such as GDS and ISA are endemic in Norway's farmed and wild salmon stocks. With over three-quarters of Scotland's salmon farmed fishing controlled, to some degree by Norwegian interests, fears are growing that firms will choose to re-stock with imported salmon eggs and smolts from Norway. The increase of infection spreading and damaging impact on Scotland's salmon fishery hardly bears thinking about.
"I've pointed out to the Commissioner that the EU's aquatic animal health Directive won't be in place until 2007. Scotland's Atlantic salmon can't wait until then – our rivers need protection NOW."