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YOUR VIEWS: Causes of salmon decline is far from clear

By Gavin Musgrove

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An Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) jumps out of the water.
An Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) jumps out of the water.

Strathy columnist Charlie Whelan says that the reason for lack of salmon catches on the Spey is obvious.

He highlights the removal of the Spey Dam, the control of agricultural pollution and the issue of salmon farming.

The Spey dam was built in 1944 yet salmon catches increased to 14,633 fish 30 years later. Agriculture has been ever present and the nearest salmon farm is well over 100 miles away.

None of these are the reason why salmon numbers have dramatically collapsed in the river.

The decline of wild salmon was first observed in 1971 and numbers have been in decline across all of Scotland ever since.

During the 1980s, 20 per cent of wild salmon leaving Scottish rivers returned from their feeding grounds to their home river. Today the figure is about three per cent.

Fifty years since the declines were noticed, the reason why fish are failing to return from their time at sea is still unknown.

The fact is there has been little or no effort to find out why, and without this knowledge, the drastic action demanded by Mr Whelan’s ‘old pal’, the musician Feargal Sharkey cannot be taken.

Sadly, the wild fish sector believes that dealing with what happens at sea is beyond their capability so instead they attack something they believe can be removed.

As Mr Whelan demonstrates, attacking the salmon farming industry deflects attention away from the fact that the most effective way of slowing down the rate of decline would be to stop fishing for them.

Even catch and release can impact the ability of the fish to breed.

Although not the main reason for the declines, anglers have caught and killed about 5.9 million wild fish since records began in 1952 and they now wonder whey there are none left.

Dr Martin Jaffa Callander McDowell


* * *

Productive use of land in the strath

Balavil House and estate on the outskirts of Kingussie is for sale.
Balavil House and estate on the outskirts of Kingussie is for sale.

A WHILE ago I was chatting to a friendly keeper (it was a while ago!)

“Oh! Aye, up in Badenoch some of the estates have so much money they don’t know how to spend it. Here, it’s more likely that at the end of the month the laird would be asking me for a loan!”

There’s fossil fuelled estates where the property is the plaything or pet project of the owner. Then there are estates such as Alvie that have to a large extent relied on enterprise to keep themselves viable.

Some of Mr Williamson’s projects seem to have been splendidly successful and some I guess less so. Surely Alvie Forest Foods and G2’s zip wires deserve to thrive.

Mr Williamson has strong views on forestry and timber production. And surely his view – that we need to grow more ourselves and rely less on imports – is right in line with a meaningful effort to address climate change.

Recent research has shown properly managed forestry plantations can, contrary to the dark sterile trope of some environmentalists, greatly enhance biodiversity.

Of course tourism is of importance but cannot we urge our politicians to find mechanisms legal and financial that encourage better use of the production of the Highlands.

“Just a lot of wet and windy peat bog and heather” – maybe in the past that meant useless but not now. Reliable clean water, a carbon sink, copious electrical power, vast spaces that once housed vibrant communities that could be reborn.

Why for instance should taxpayer funded peat restoration work be allowing a Highland landowner to carbon offset his more southerly situated polluting businesses?

Shouldn’t we who live in the Highlands be concerned that diverse business interests like brewers and financial institutions are increasingly getting involved in land ownership? Is the motivation saving of the planet or is it solely about the bottom line?

Most of these guys, though, are very good at self promotion,eg ‘the restoration of the Lost Forest’. And what about our mostly absentee owners?There can be outrage when a national art competition is funded by an oil company but not a squeak when oil magnates control swathes of our country.

There might well be much to be said for ‘rewilding’ but is there not a case for a rather more critical view of the operations of our local billionaire as he speeds between Feshie, Gaick and his far flung acquisitions.

Perhaps if the state bought Balavil and we explored a different path...?

Dick Webster

Campbell Crescent


* * *

Short term lets zone in strath far from fair

There are more questions than answers over short term let planning so just a recap.

• All those that had opened and invested in short term let holiday houses in the last 10 years in the strath, the new ‘controlled’ area, the only other one being Edinburgh, to continue trading now require planning consent

• All concerned required to apply for planning consent along with licence application by October 1.

• The current rules are favourable to such use but that does not matter. Planning has refused to consider the applications until new rules are in force.

• Highland Council was awaiting legal advice on what the new rules could be – they now have that legal advice but those that have applied for planning did so not knowing on what basis their application would be decided upon and still do not know. They paid for the cost of both planning and licensing before the deadline because they had to in order to continue trading with no idea of chances of success or indeed what evidence should be submitted.

• If we look at Edinburgh the test is balancing loss of residential property against economic gain. It is assessed on an individual application and so far, of those that have applied 98% are being refused

• There is plenty of evidence to support holiday homes as a group bringing a huge benefit economically, employment wise, local business wise, holiday attractions wise, local economy wise – but how do you prove on an individual application basis? In any event nobody was asked to submit evidence with their application.

We have a holiday house in the centre of Kingussie that we applied for planning in January. Not one person objected, it is full every weekend even in low season and those staying there bring much needed spending power to Kingussie business.

It is a large, high end townhouse, not in any way suitable for affordable housing and brings in typically extended family up to 10 in number, well behaved affluent occupiers.

The property was originally commercial, converted from a butcher shop after a huge fight with planning that then resisted change from commercial use to that of residential

I probably can get local businesses to submit letters in support, but I don’t know the criteria we will be assessed against and don’t know if I will even be given the chance to do so before any decision.

The SNP stand under a slogan ‘a fairer Scotland’. Can anybody explain why any of the above can be described as ‘fair’?

How is it fair to force applications, with fees to be paid. not knowing the assessment criteria? How is it fair to retrospectively apply new criteria to those who legitimately expected to be allowed to earn money from their investment, only now to have that hope potentially removed?

How is it fair still not to know the criteria? Will the council now tell us the criteria and allow all who have applied to submit evidence in support?

How is it fair that if similar to Edinburgh the rules become an effective ban, for the council to retain fees obtained from operators forced to apply without knowing criteria?

Gordon Thomson


* * *

Net Zero is only way to halt the warming

Charles Wardrop disputes mainstream climate science (Strathy November 2); he claims that man-made CO2 does not cause global warming (Strathy November 9).

I explained (Strathy November 9, 16) that global warming and associated increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide (CO2), are scientific facts based on sound evidence.

Mainstream science is clear these GHGs are causing global warming (British Geological Survey ‘The greenhouse effect’, IPCC ‘AR6 Synthesis Report’; United Nations Environment Programme ‘What is the greenhouse effect?’, US’s NASA ‘What is the greenhouse effect?’).

Scientists model theories about climate with observed facts, from the real world and from experiment, to test whether the model outcomes correspond to actual outcomes.

Modelling results are checked against wider evidence.

This is not “dud computer programs fed dud data” as claimed by Wardrop (Strathy November 9), but modelling based on reliable measurements, such direct measurement of temperature and atmospheric gases and of ice cores (my letter Strathy November 16).

Some theories about the main causes of global warming are rejected, including changes in the earth’s orbit (Earth& Home ‘Are orbital changes causing global warming?’).

Also rejected are changes in the sun’s radiation as expounded by Lightfoot & Ratzer (cited by Wardrop Strathy November 2, May 18): that theory is inconsistent with declining radiation since 1960 (NASA ‘Is the Sun causing global warming?’).

Among other deniers of mainstream climate science, cited by Wardrop (Strathy November 2), is William Happer.

He was funded by the oil industry and recruited by the Trump administration to rebut mainstream science; he then left when his views were so extreme that they might hurt Trump’s re-election chances (DeSmog ‘William Happer’).

Wardrop also cites Ian Plimer who has been much criticised for spreading misinformation (Climate Feedback, ‘Ian Plimer).

And he recommends YouTube for information on global warming; but I would not trust its fact checking for accurate information.

So rising GHGs in the atmosphere remain as the principal cause of global warming.

Reaching ‘net zero’, is the way to halt global warming.

That is when emissions of GHGs are no more than those captured from the atmosphere by natural and man-made means.

Net zero will be central to negotiations at the UN’s climate conference COP28 from 30 November.

Dermot Williamson


* * *

Net zero taking away cash for vital services

Mr Dermot Williamson’s opinions on the causes of and threats from man-made climate changes (Strathy, 16th November) are quite unproven.

They are riddled with scientific errors (see the work of Lightfoot & Ratzer, 2023, and the many more climate scientists they refer to.)

Scary long term climate predictions depend on faulty computer models. None has proved correct. Warnings of alarmist catastrophies are unjustified.

Adverse weather events-storms, floods-and the like are not significantly different from those described in the historical weather records. Our planet is emerging from the ‘Little Ice Age’, explaining the retreat of some glaciers abroad. Carbon dioxide increases play no significant part.

‘Net zero’ is horrendously costly for the UK – at least £3-4 trillion by AD2050 – and is unnecessary and unachievable.

It steals money from vital government spending on defence, health, education, infrastructure and many more necessities.

Decarbonisaton is are now ruining us financially and societally, without any benefit except to those making huge profits from wasted taxpayer’s money.

Charles Wardrop


* * *

Standards of morals need re-establishing

'Society desperately needs to rediscover the wholesome unchangeable wisdom of God’s Word'
'Society desperately needs to rediscover the wholesome unchangeable wisdom of God’s Word'

I agree very much with the final words of Jim MacEwan’s letter encouraging all who have doubts to read the New Testament.

As our age of permissiveness crumbles into moral confusion and existential maladies of all kinds, society desperately needs to rediscover the wholesome unchangeable wisdom of God’s Word.

Thank you too to Jim MacEwan for spurring me into studying afresh the Old Testament laws.

Bible teachers discern the distinction between God’s eternal moral laws to be found there, especially the Ten Commandments, and the civil laws given to Israel in that period, with attendant penalties. Every society needs such regulations.

As I researched the 11 times the death penalty was called for in Moses’ law, I was struck that every time it was due for disobedience to one of the Ten Commandments.

From Adam and Eve right through to the New Testament, the “wages of sin” has been death (Romans 6.23) – eternal death, the opposite of eternal life. But Israel’s civil laws and penalties do not apply universally.

So in reply to Jim MacEwan I would say that the principle of civil law (for Israel or for the U.K.) being modified through the ages, is one thing.

God’s holy assessment of the sinfulness of the evil deed (that civil authorities may or may not penalise) is another; and his holy displeasure at all sin remains the same.

This applies to issues like sex before marriage (non-virgin brides) and homosexual acts, both of which come in as sins under Jesus’ category of ‘sexual immorality’ (porneia) in his list of numerous evils in Mark 7.21-22.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insisted: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5.17).

He thus not only gives his approval to Old Testament moral law, he goes on to bring out the exceedingly demanding nature of the moral requirements of the law – for example that lust is sin, just as is adultery.

These are the high moral standards we need to re-establish today, in the church and in society.

Clive Every-Clayton


* * *

In need of your help

Each year in the UK around 10,500 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, devastating news that also affects many thousands more of their family members and friends.

In this distressing time people are often unsure where to turn for support and are left feeling isolated. Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Support Line specialist nurses provide expert information and support for you. We are here to provide you and your family with practical steps and emotional support when you need it most.

I also need to ask people living with pancreatic cancer and their loved ones to help us as we research how our support services can reach even more people. We particularly want to hear from those who have never been in contact with the charity before to understand where we can make a difference.

To take part, please email: servicesreach@pancreaticcancer.org.uk

Anyone affected by pancreatic cancer can call our confidential, free Support Line on (Freecall: 0808 801 0707).

Dianne Dobson

Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurse

Pancreatic Cancer UK.

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