Friends having fun on the river.
I was asked recently why people listen to my views and opinions, sometimes over those of people involved in scientific study. What were my credentials? And, given the tone question, as someone without qualification, what gives me the “right” to even have an opinion? Although we can’t and will never know what really goes on with salmon at sea, based on a mix of observation and simple logic, there are certain things things we actually know and others which, due to incomplete scientific data, worry us and we speculate about. It’s human nature, when we don’t know, we tend to overthink, spending too much time on what might be, rather than on what we actually know. So, why do people listen to me on this and the subjects salmon fishing in general. Well I suppose this would be down to my inquisitive nature, asking questions of everyone, not just those supposedly at the “top” of their game, but people at every level. I remember as a young man, it was actually 1982, because the Falklands War had just began. At this time part of a squad of old forestry commission guys (Knowing collectively, but respectively, as the Zombies) planting trees on high ground above the town of Elgin, I could write a book about those great guys, a few of whom were captured at St Valerie in 1940, an experience that taught them much about life in general. But funny, clever and really interesting folk they were. Anyway, I digress. The hills around Elgin had been cultivated (ploughed one metre deep) for planting what could only be described as Weeds, Canadian Lodge pole pine. I remember the old guys saying, “Why are they planting this area with this shite”!? It will never make a forest (It never did)! And, “look at the hill boys”, “those idiots have opened it up”! Meaning, the metre deep ploughing over thousands of acres had completely changed the land and more importantly the hydrology (the way the land naturally dealt with water). Looking over the city of Elgin from our high vantage point, they said, “See that town down there, within 20 years it will have huge flooding problems because of this”! And more than this, they’ll try and blame it on something totally different! A quick google of Elgin and flooding you will see that the rest is history! Old guys with experience interest me and my father was so right! My father, a wise and clever man, taught me that the most simple way to gain knowledge was to ask those with greater experience on whichever subject and, in this respect, “everyone”, irrespective of education and social standing, has something to give. The secret is having an open enough mind to ask the right questions and have a genuine interest in their answers. I suppose this is why, as a young man, I had many more “older” friends than young. My mother came from a family of fishermen, so I suppose a combination of time spent, and many questions asked in this fishing community has led to the opinions I now have. A lifetime of observation, listening and questioning, I suppose, has shaped me and led me to question those who’s opinions, I can see are based on limited knowledge, incomplete science/date and little practical experience. Yes this might piss a few people off, but frankly I couldn’t care less as my interest is in the big picture and answers to questions. I think much of the problems we have, across many different areas in the 21st century come from this, conclusions, set in stone but based on flawed information. We’ve all heard on the news almost every day “scientists say”, or “ a team of scientists have found” and as soon as we hear this most of us simply accept, never questioning how broad and in-depth the study. Examples such as Scientists say GMO foods are safe. Or Scientists say, Octopuses are Aliens from outer space, has learned to be sceptical of what they say. Here in the UK, Our society has changed dramatically, once a fishing nation of small communities, breeding generations of people with amazing depth of knowledge regarding the sea, rivers and land, to now, one of a generation listening to theory of people, often with separate agendas. For instance, we all know about how bad the Aquaculture industry is, however, it’s protected by both science and politics. We know this leads to our children and everyone else eating sub standard, toxic food, but due to and millions spent by those companies on professional, excellent PR the truth about this product and its impact on both ourselves and our environment is masked. Fortunately more and more people are asking questions of this industry. However, the perception of the public still is, all is good. Because of the money involved, I’m afraid this will always be the case. The RSPB is another. Once a great organisation but now run by people, who, to those of us who look deeper, know, are little more than fundraisers and “green activists”. For years, Gamekeepers, farmers, fishing and shooting people managed the land, creating and helping to sustain a wonderful ecosystem we all knew and loved. My interest in birds and the RSPB came at a young age via another wise old guy. A primary school teacher who’s classroom wall was adorned with the formalin filled wings, legs and heads of a wide verity of birds. His great passion for birds rubbed off to many in the class, many of whom, influenced by his passion, joined the Young Orthinologists Club [YOC], a branch of the RSPB for youngsters. Sadly, change is inevitable and, because of the views of those activists and their grip on society via sub standard politicians, this type of thing, and In all probability, Mr Dyce himself, would never be allowed in the classroom now. In fact teachers themselves have changed. I can remember having words with one who advised my 6 year old daughter not to eat meat! As custodians of, not just the countryside, but our culture and identity, how we have managed this change has caused massive problems. Basically we stood back an let people who don’t really know, dictate. The interesting things here is, most of us here in the UK s change. The 1981 wildlife and countryside act was the beginning of the end of the countryside as we knew, and managed it. We had gone from a nation of managers, understanding and developing certain species for the benefit of our local communities, particularly those in rural areas who have little else, to one taken over by clever activists using propaganda similar to that used by the Nazi part in 1920s and 30s Germany. Those people have a very different view of society than most people in the UK, and by this I mean many living in both the towns and countryside. Politicians had become wrapped up in this “media based” propaganda, teaching our children not to eat meat etc.. We can all remember the full page pictures of seal pups being clubbed to death, interestingly, this came at a time (late 1970s) when Scottish fishermen had been talking about and were highlighting the increase in numbers of seals around our coastline. Until around the late 1930s those had been managed by whalers, their number at the turn of the 20th century said to be as few as 5000, but due to the closure of this industry, by the late 70s the number was closer to 40,000. With the UK population now closer to 250,000, it’s totally out of hand with regard protecting our inshore fishery and those fish hugging the coastline! . The local population of numbers of seals in The Findhorn Bay Area Of the moray Firth, has increased from around 250 to 750 over the last few years, yet the number allowed to be shot in the last two years has dropped from 60 to 18. This is on the advice of the people/ scientists at the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews. I’m afraid when I see this, I simply “must” question the science. Some actually say that they don’t eat Salmon! I know for a fact, this is where science, politics and propaganda become mixed and I’m afraid no one can convince me otherwise. This propaganda is Similar to what we see in fish-farming mentioned above. Those of us who “know” about this, know it’s total nonsense, but public are fooled by the propaganda. Some people have used this to enhance their career. Edwina Curry was a perfect example, she used incomplete data to make a claim that “every egg” had salmonella in it, a statement that ruined many businesses and people’s lives through job losses. It took 30 years for scientists to “prove” eggs were actually fine for us to eat. The interesting thing here was, “the people” actually made the decision and didn’t wait 30 years before eating eggs again. Because the egg was a staple part of out diet and we could physically “see” there were no problems associated with this, thankfully, we didn’t have to wait for the scientists to tell us all was fine again. . The source of this problem was in fact, incomplete data and a failing of Mrs Curry to properly research before making her assumption (or possibly not). However, Add to this, the “political activist” and the means to deliver the message (a powerful media) and you have the potential for a real game changer. Over the past 40 years I’ve seen more experts becoming involved in my passion, salmon fishing. Initially, my logical/inquisitive mind told me this would be a good thing. However, right from the outset, when the first scientist arrived on out river, I could feel a “them and us” culture developing. Turn the clock forward 40 years, the massive decline in salmon has exasperated this with Ghillies becoming totally disillusioned by their one track rhetoric of “more research required”. My logical mind asks the simple question – Do we know anything more now than Menzies described in his book written 100years ago, and if so, what the hell are we doing with this information? We are constantly told we need data to influence politicians! I ask this simple question, of the data we have right now, has that influenced any UK politician? Has it led to anything at all that has, or will help the Atlantic Salmon? No is most definitely the answer. The Atlantic Salmon has no political friends because, quite simply, it is seen, but more importantly, portrayed by those with hidden agendas, as being a play thing of the wealthy and in the world of politics and propaganda, something that is both totally wrong and anything but a vote winner. My pet hates in the world are injustice, plagiarising, bullying and people with big egos. The big picture, and in business creating a win/win culture with ones partners is what appeals to me.