The government is likely to face the European Commission over its protection of Scottish wild salmon populations, after a complaint from the owners of the Ullapool river, Ross-shire.
The complaint is being handled by solicitor Guy Linley-Adams, who also acts for Fish Legal and the Salmon and Trout Association. It says the government has failed to designate enough special areas of conservation (SACs) to protect salmon and sea trout on Scotland’s north-west coast.
Scotland hosts more than half of the EU’s spawning salmon, but has just 17 SACs, the complaint says. The EU Habitats Directive requires governments to protect the species from threats such as coastal salmon farms, which increase the numbers of fish lice and dilute the wild genetic stock through fish escapes.
But the government appears to have closed the book on designating new SACs, despite recent declines in west coast salmon. The complaint focuses particularly on the Ullapool river, whose owners requested the area be designated in 2009.
Designation of SACs should result in the long-term transfer of coastal fish farms to 25 kilometres away from the mouth of conservation rivers, the complaint says, and interim measures to reduce stress on wild populations.
“The failure of the Scottish Government to get to grips with the industry and to ensure that it does not damage the iconic wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout of the west coast and western isles is nothing short of a disgrace,” Mr Linley-Adams said.