Bruce Sandison (1938 – 2016)
An rud bhios na do bhroin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
“That which you have wasted will not be there for future generations”
The Salmon Farm Monitor
The death of Bruce Sandison has robbed the wild salmon of Scotland of one of their most fierce defenders. More than anyone else, Bruce opened our eyes to the perils produced by salmon farming. I remember meeting him in Scotland in the early 1990s and being inspired by the way he had foreseen the destruction that salmon farming was doing to a great many rivers on the west coast of Scotland.
His pioneering foresight aroused the determination of numerous individuals and groups to join and lead a worldwide campaign to make governments realise they should adopt and enforce a green and sustainable fish farming policy. This was a battle to change the techniques of what has become a very powerful industry continues, not just in the UK but in most of the salmon countries throughout the wild salmon’s North Atlantic range.
Bruce Sandison was a prolific and skilled writer who never tempered his complaints against the pollution, sea lice explosions and the adverse effects of mass escapes by fish line- bred for an indolent existence in open sea fish cages. To spread the word he set up the Salmon Farm Protest Group (SFPG) and the Salmon Farm Monitor and used them to promote his continual efforts to protect the marine and freshwater environment.
Many groups, including the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, followed his leadership in demanding a revolution in fish farming. Accepting that the farms have brought real benefits to rural economies, Bruce supported the idea of relocating the farms to land- based, closely contained locations. He rightly saw that as the one way the industry can carry out its operations in a green and sustainable manner. It would also ensure the preservation of a species that depend for survival upon unpolluted coastal and inland waters and the jobs of people who rely upon that environment for their livelihood.
He drew the attention of the general public to the sea-lice epidemics that destroy the ability of wild salmon smolts to make a successful migration and the gross pollution that builds up beneath the fish cages. He called for an independent public enquiry and the establishment of an independent body to regulate the industry as recommended by the Nickson Report. He called for a ban on sea cages near salmon rivers, the prohibition of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and proper labelling of the products with full disclosure of all chemicals used in the production of farmed fish. These were just a few of his proposals.
In recent years Sandison was a regular contributor to the influential Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine in Scotland and the national media. Only a week before he died he was still fulminating against the Scottish government’s apparently unswerving support for the industry and the suspect quality of many of the fish farms. He still pulled no punches. He told the Mail on Sunday: “Salmon farming is an abomination. For the sake of producing fake food we are sacrificing the treasure of the sea. I wouldn’t feed it to my cat.”
The wild salmon fraternity must fight on despite the loss of a great campaigner and naturalist. Bruce will be sadly missed and our thoughts and sympathy are with Anne and his family.
Bruce Sandison’s funeral will take place in his beloved Tongue on Saturday, 5 November 2016.