Supermarkets ban sale of Scottish mackerel

THREE of Scotland’s biggest supermarket chains have banned Scottish mackerel from shop shelves.

Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and The Co-Op say they will not buy the fish while its environmental certification has been suspended.

The suspension follows a dispute with Iceland and Faroe Islands who breached mackerel fishing quotas in the northeast Atlantic. Overfishing by the two countries meant quotas were exceeded by 25% in the past two years.

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Mackerel fishing is worth £160million a year to the Scottish economy.

As a result the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which certifies that fishing is sustainable, suspended certification of the entire mackerel fishery.

By far the country’s most valuable catch, Scottish fisherman landed around 146,000 tonnes of Mackerel, worth £163million, last year.

The industry is worth £160million a year to Scotland’s economy.

Fishing industry experts said they would be “extremely disappointed” if supermarkets abandoned selling Scottish mackerel.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said:

“In light of the MSC’s decision to remove certification, and in line with our own sustainable sourcing policies, we have taken the decision to stop sourcing from the affected fisheries pending an agreement between the parties involved.”

Marks & Spencer said it would not buy Scottish mackerel unless it was certified by the MSC.

A spokeswoman added:

“Ensuring all of the fish we sell is from sustainable sources is at the heart of our business.”

The Co-Op said it was “working with our suppliers to find alternative sources.”

Tesco, Aldi, Waitrose and Morrisons said they had no plans to stop selling Scottish mackerel.

Labour Shadow environment secretary, Claire Baker, said supermarket confusion was unfair on consumers.

She said: “Many will feel caught between wanting to do the right thing in terms of sustainability and supporting the Scottish fishing fleet, which has done nothing wrong.”

She said the Scottish Government had a “woeful” lack of engagement with supermarkets and called on ministers to “urgently” engage with retailers in Scotland to make sure consumers and the mackerel fishing fleet can come through this difficult time as painlessly as possible.”

Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said he did not need a lecture on how to talk to supermarkets.

He said:

“I have personally raised my concerns over their sourcing of seafood on many occasions.

“Scotland’s priority is to have an international deal in place between all parties that protects the sustainability of the mackerel stock – but not at any price.”

Ian Gatt, the chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said it would be unfair to penalise Scottish fishing boats for a problem they did not cause.

He said:

“I’d be extremely disappointed if consumers in Scotland can’t buy Scottish mackerel.

“The stocks are still high enough for supermarkets to put Scottish mackerel on their shelves.”

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Dramatic footage shows buzzard snatching osprey chick from its nest

An osprey chick being snatched from its nest by a buzzard has been captured in dramatic video footage.

The clipshows the chick’s mother flying away from the nest and a buzzard swooping in.

Rural businessowner Euan Webster saw the chick being taken by the buzzard at his property Lochter in Aberdeenshire. The chick was one of two that had hatched at the nest.

The half eaten carcass of the osprey chick was recovered near the nest earlier this week and it was confirmed on Wednesday that it is to be handed over to SASA (Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture, the ScottishGovernment laboratories) for proper analysis.

Mr Webster has 24/7 video surveillance on the nest for both wildlife watching for the enjoyment of the public in addition to protecting the rare ospreys.

He said: “This was a shocking act and clearly demonstrates why something needs to be done to control buzzards. It cannot be right that the buzzard remains protected yet they swarm over the countryside in large numbers eating prey, including iconic and beautiful birds such as ospreys, at will.

“Any farmer or shepherd will tell you about the threat from buzzards yet the powers that be are reluctant to face up to the fact that sooner rather than later measures have to put in place to control them. This incident should sound alarm bells among those who care about the conservation of our rarer wild birds such as ospreys in Scotland.

“As a former chairman of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Grampian regional group I am an enthusiastic believer in balanced and managed conservation. I know research by the trust is suggesting buzzards are active predators that may well be affecting conservation of birds in some parts of Scotland.

“However, I was not prepared to have buzzards active predatory behaviours so clearly demonstrated right under my nose. It would be a great shame if we could not find a way to reduce the very clear predation pressure from this now ubiquitous predator.”

Buzzard numbers have been growing steadily since the 1980s and numbers in Scotland are now at record levels.

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “While previous reports of such predation have been brushed off by those who do not like the reality of what is happening in the countryside, this video provides the sad but clear and conclusive evidence of the serious impact that this growing population of buzzards is now having.

“The time has surely come for common sense to prevail and for measures to be introduced to be able to properly protect these wild birds and other species that we value so highly. The need to strike a proper balance is now well overdue.”

Fall in the number of birds of prey being poisoned in Scotland

The number of incidents involving the poisoning of birds of prey fell by more than half in Scotland last year.

Poison map

In total, 10 poisoning incidents were recorded in 2011, resulting in 16 dead birds. This compares with 22 incidents and 28 deaths, in 2010.

The Scottish government said that the results represented “a welcome decline” but that it was “no cause for complacency”.

Seven buzzards, four red kites and a golden eagle were among the fatalities.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is the fourth year we have published these maps and I very much welcome the reduction in poisoning numbers.

“I hope this proves to be the beginning of a continuing reduction in such cases, leading to the end of this outdated, dangerous and cruel practice.”

He added:

Birds of prey are a key part of our ecosystems and a magnificent spectacle in our countryside. They are valued by locals and visitors alike.”

ANALYSIS

David Miller BBC Scotland environment correspondent – 

The golden eagle is one of Scotland’s best-loved species. But in 2010, four were found poisoned. Even a huge white tailed sea eagle fell victim to poisoned bait that year. In total, 28 birds of prey were illegally killed in this way.

There were 16 confirmed poisoning cases in 2011, but it is impossible to know if this marks the start of a long-term downward trend.

Poisoning is only one technique used to control birds of prey and it is difficult to detect. We do not know how many other birds were poisoned last year, their bodies undiscovered or hidden.

Scotland’s sporting estates believe their reputations are being unfairly damaged by the actions of a minority of gamekeepers and landowners who still break the law.

Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners, insists it is working hard to change attitudes. These figures, it says, are welcome news but provide no room for complacency.

Meanwhile, a new offence of vicarious liability means Scottish landowners and managers can now be held criminally responsible for the actions of their gamekeepers and contractors.

But when will we be able to say this centuries-old problem has finally been solved?

That day will only come when species like the hen harrier, the red kite, and even the iconic golden eagle, have the chance to return to large swathes of land which, for now, remain enemy territory.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management for RSPB Scotland, said:

“We hope that this is the start of a downward trend in illegal poisoning in Scotland.

“In time this should also be reflected in an increase in the populations and ranges of some of our most vulnerable species, including golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites.”

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, said:

“These statistics reveal the lowest number of cases on record for confirmed illegal poisoning of birds of prey since we started producing these hot spot maps.

“This is very welcome and encouraging news and clearly demonstrates substantial progress in this area.”

The record high for bird poisoning deaths was 34 in 2006. The number in 2011 represents a fall of more than 50% and a 42% drop from 2010.

The fall has occurred at a time when the government said its laboratories at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) were testing more intensively.

Supt Ewen West, of Tayside Police, who chairs the raptor persecution priority delivery group, believes the decrease was influenced by measures being taken to combat wildlife crime.

He said:

“This reduction in poisoning incidents is in my view reflective of the ongoing work in relation to the prevention and investigation of such criminality.”

Scotland’s annual wildlife crime conference takes place on Wednesday at the Scottish Police College in Fife.