Campaigners have staged a protest at the Scottish Parliament blindfolded and gagged with dead fish to highlight the “environmental tragedy” of salmon fishing.
The Ocean Rebellion activists staged the action in the pools outside Holyrood, carrying briefcases with “War on wild fish”, “farmed salmon” and “dirty money” emblazoned on them, in a bid to highlight the “deliberate blindness” of the Scottish Government.
Dressed in pinstripe suits, campaigners also made a last minute plea to SNP conference delegates and leaders to end the “war” on wild fish.
But Salmon Scotland, the voice of Scottish farmed salmon, said its dedicated farmers are passionate about animal welfare and the marine environment.
A spokesperson said: “Unlike the three anti-salmon activists in fancy dress, most people are proud of Scottish salmon – the country’s most popular fish and biggest food export.
“Scotland’s world-renowned salmon sector supports more than 12,000 well-paid, long-term jobs, many in remote areas where the farms are an integral part of community life, and is worth a staggering £750 million to the Scottish economy.
“Our dedicated farmers are passionate about animal welfare and the marine environment, and are proud to work in a sector which has an incredibly low carbon footprint and meets the highest environmental standards.”
Caitlin Macleod, from Ocean Rebellion, claimed the Scottish Government’s approach to the coastline and sea life is an “ecological disaster”.
She added: “It has ignored the Scottish Parliament which formally called for a halt to expansion until the problems are addressed, and at the demand of its cronies in offshore companies, is planning to double the size of the disgusting salmon industry within eight years.
“We need a revolution in Scottish marine politics, with protection and participation replacing Scottish Government-sponsored corporate pillage.”
Ocean Rebellion says the Scottish Parliament had demanded that “urgent and meaningful action” should be taken to address problems with regulations as well as fish health and environmental issues before the industry can expand, and accused the Government of refusing to act on the warnings.
The group has called for a halt to caged salmon fishing in Scotland.
The group claims whales, dolphins and porpoises are “unlawfully” disturbed with alarms designed to startle seals, and the salmon industry dumps harmful chemicals into Scotland’s marine environment.
Salmon Scotland said the acoustic deterrent devices are not used at any salmon farm in Scotland and the industry “meets the highest environmental standards”.
Ocean Rebellion’s Roc Sandford said: “Scotland is a beautiful, proud country. Our destruction of the environmental heritage on which so many of our jobs depend will ruin this for future generations.
“I don’t want to see more dead zones caused by salmon farming – it’s time to throw these profiteering corporations out of our magnificent waters.”
Salmon Scotland added: “Just this week the Scottish Government recognised the immense contribution of Scottish salmon to the blue economy, and the UN promotes aquaculture as a way to feed a growing global population and meet its sustainable development goals.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government values the role of aquaculture in producing world-renowned healthy and quality seafood, through sustainable food production and a clear commitment to protection of the environment.
“We are delivering a programme of work in response to the regulatory review on aquaculture while the Farmed Fish Health Framework promotes collaboration of various organisations, including Scottish Government, fish vets and regulators to address fish health issues.
“Through the vision for sustainable aquaculture and the regulatory review, we are working to ensure that the sector is both environmentally and economically sustainable – protecting a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.
“Aquaculture is a significant contributor to our rural economy, providing well paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities and will play a major role in our green recovery and transition to net-zero.”