2007 - 2021

Harrods Salmon at £245 a kilo

Wild salmon was on sale last week at the Harrods luxury  store in London for £245 a kilo, making the cost of the average salmon to be over £700, or around £60 for a single portion. Chips would probably be extra.

The fish was claimed by Harrods to have legally come from the river Tweed, and a spokesman for the Northumberland Inshore fisheries authority has confirmed  to me  that there is still a very small fishery operating legally from there using a traditional  hand netting system where only a small handful of fish are being caught.

The sale of the fish from the Tweed is the result of a complex arrangement with the Scottish government as it may have been born in Scotland and crossed the border.

The sale of the wild, as opposed to farmed, fish comes at a time when the crisis in the amount of fish returning to spawn in British rivers is reaching a crisis point, with almost all the commercially driven  Scottish salmon netting stations having their licenses withdrawn and almost all salmon caught by rod and line having to be legally returned to the river live.

Official government figures suggest that in 1967 over five hundred and twenty thousand wild salmon were reported  to have been caught in nets in Scotland, by 2019 ( after the closing of the commercial netting stations ) only five hundred and eighty one  fish were reported to have been caught in nets.

When I was a child hanging around a fishing station on Mull at that time we used to sell wild salmon at around fifty pence a kilo, around  one five hundredth of the price that Harrods are selling their fish.

So around five hundred thousand fish netted in 1967 and five hundred netted in 2019. What are we doing to ourselves?

The cause of the decline in wild salmon is being variously blamed on a number of factors including climate change, over fishing, sea lice being swept from farmed salmon cages , an increase in seals, interbreeding between escaped fish farmed salmon and the wild version or causes unknown.

Now many small agencies are starting to conduct reviews into the situation. Typically last week the river Ness district salmon board announced a survey costing over five figures claiming that their river  is under increasing pressure from human activities and climate change. Their survey will concentrate in the five odd miles of river near Inverness.

In the Scottish government circles there is now increasing pressure for tighter legislation on fish farm management  which many see as being influential in the problem.

In May 2020 a committee called for a new body to be set up to regulate the interaction between wild and farmed salmon.

But the issue is more complex than that. Last week we saw Iain Blackford, highheidyun of the SNP in Westminster  opening a large new fish farm in north eastern  Skye, which was claimed to be organic with lower densities , and good for him if it was . On his press releases he remarked that he recognised that there were concerns about fish farming that ought to be embraced.  But how big an embrace is he advocating? One of those  wee pecks on the cheeks, or a full ravish?

It’s not easy for him, or indeed anyone. After all if we were to give the salmon greater dignity through lower densities  we would soon be reducing the dignity of many of the fish farm workers in Scotlands two hundred odd fish farms as they lost their jobs, once again we see the problems that arrive when standards are not universal across nations.

Then there’s the seals, the numbers of seals now evident in many a Scottish river mouth  is now so enormous it’s amazing that any wild salmon at all manage to return to their native rivers to spawn, so more culling of seals in the interest of those fishing on the often privately owned rivers?

Personally having dived below many a fish farm and witnessed the devastation caused by excess anti-lice chemicals being dumped over cages and spoken to fish farm workers  who have been appalled at seeing the high numbers of mortalities and deformities in their stock I rarely eat farmed salmon, and am prepared to pay a little bit more for organically raised fish, but wonder where the red lines should be.

Last week I asked the fish mongers at Harrods who it was that were buying the £63 a portion wild salmon.

“Rich people“ came the reply, which was handy to know, though depressing to contemplate.

It’s time for that embrace Mr Blackford, and indeed Holyrood.

But no tongues. We’ve had enough talk.

Comments (16)

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  1. Ann Rayner says:

    I wonder how much the fishermen are paid per kilo, or even per fish.

    1. Wullie says:

      A gey shrivelled auld lemon forbye.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        Alas! Auld age daesna come itsel.

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      The ‘very small fishery operating legally from there using a traditional hand netting system where only a small handful of fish are being caught’ from which Harrods source the salmon in question is the River Tweed Wild Salmon Co. – a social enterprise that was set up in 2015 to ensure the continuation of the traditional net and coble fishing method as part of the preservation of Berwick-upon-Tweed’s heritage. The enterprise ensures net and coble fishing continues as an ongoing ‘live practice’ for young people in the area; it also offers small group experiences to help fund its activities. It also raises revenue by selling the small handful of fish caught through high-end retailers like Harrods and Foreman and Field in London, where it retails at around £250/kg. I don’t know what cut of this Harrods takes.

      The not-for-profit enterprise is the only remaining netting station operating commercially on the Tweed, and it’s the only supplier of Tweed salmon and sea trout to the market as it’s illegal to sell rod-caught fish.

      1. maxwell macleod says:

        Thank you Mr Robinson,
        I was aware of much of that but am aye wary of naming operations without specific permissions as the press can be such a bore. Sounds like a great operation I understand the Daily Mail have picked up a story I ran on this in the Herald so we shall see what they further reveal. To be fair to the Mail they have been running some good stuff on fish farming.
        Best MM

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          The trouble is that folk like their cheap salmon. Before farming, not many people could afford it. Maybe Harrods’ price reflects the ‘true’ cost of environmentally friendly salmon.

  2. Tom Ultuous says:

    It’s a pity Covid wasn’t contracted by eating animal based products. We’d maybe save the planet as well as other species.

    1. Lordmac says:

      The well of, are blessed with the right to fish Scottish rivers, and are allowed to take one for the pot, yet the poorer soles who hold a club licence are not allowed any fish. And have to be returned to river, also it is an offence in Scotland to sell a rod caught salmon, and there is no longer the. Rule of law about the 2 mile from shore boat hauling, and that will whipe out any shoals of salmon. And with fish finders, its like a easy catche, Just as what happened in Largs their whole mussel beds disappeared over Night with out a trace, but most. Believe they made there new home in France

      1. Norman Murray says:

        Some rivers allow you a limit provided the river can stand it,these are certain Club Waters depending on what grade your river is classified.

  3. Mark Bevis says:

    Given the amount of plastic, mercury and radiation that has been dumped in the worlds’ oceans, why is anyone here even contemplating eating fish anymore? Add the current cocktail of micro-plastics, factory farm chemicals, mercury from leaking permafrost, nitrogen runoff from industrialised farming, contraception pill run-off, chemical industry toxins and the mere thought of eating any seafood should be making anyone gag.

    As for seals, over 5000 died a few months ago off Namibia due to starvation, so if there are population “excesses” off the coasts of Scotland it’s more than balanced by declines elsewhere. So leave them alone. Let them enjoy an existence before their populations crash too.

    Type “how many people worldwide rely on fish for protein?” and you get some interesting answers, from 40% (3 billion) to 12% (870 million) depending on who has what agenda to follow.
    There is a graph on this page (which I can’t paste in here) http://www.fao.org/state-of-fisheries-aquaculture
    figure 1 which shows why we’re fishing the oceans to death.

    In 1950 the world fished 20,000,000 tons of sea fish. In 1988 that plateaued at 80,000,000 tons and has been roughly the same since. In other words, in a mere 38 years of human existence during which the population doubled, we reached peak seafish catch by quadrupling the catch.

    Current waterfood catch is 180,000,000 tons worldwide. The difference between that and the seafish catch has been made up by industrial fish production, fish farms, mollusc farms, etc, etc. The Scottish salmon farms would be part of that total.

    I suspect the only reason the natural seafood catch has remained at 80,000,000 tons pa is because we’re harvesting other species that before we rarely bothered with. Don’t get me started on the seafloor bottom dredging that now passes for fishing.

    Basically humans have reacted in typical style to biosphere limits by industrialised waterfood production. Trying to create more of the same artificially. Most of it will not be organic, and none of it is sustainable, because, it is a form of industry.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      ‘Given the amount of plastic, mercury and radiation that has been dumped in the worlds’ oceans, why is anyone here even contemplating eating fish anymore?’

      Because we like seafood? And because, for degenerate moderns, desire trumps ‘truth’?

    2. Susan Macdiarmid says:

      Ten years ago our shoreline was fair hotchin with starfish, wee stumpy ones, long legged ones, different colours, numbers of legs. Lovely they were. Fish farms came, about 5 miles down the coast, and I’ve not seen a starfish in years. Is there a link, Mark?

    3. maxwell macleod says:

      Great research , fascinating. MM

    4. Norman Murray says:

      Seal abundance has already resulted in large die offs with distemper cause by an over population of seals in close proximity to each other, but numbers are so high that the population soon increase. So either cull to save the agony of distemper and help save salmon and sea trout, more and more haul out a.reas are being declared each year.A high percentage of salmon and sea trout are damaged by seals encouraging bacterial and fungal diseases both in the sea and in fresh water, a reduction of seals and sawmills would be an achievable help to salmon and sea trout. Nobody is wanting to wipe out predators but a sensible cull of each threatening species would go some way to helping our salmonids.

      1. maxwell macleod says:

        Fantastic stuff. Can you please tell me more about the problems with sawmills and where I can access good stats on seal numbers. Many thanks, maxwell

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