Citation Information: Green DM, Penman DJ, Migaud H, Bron JE, Taggart JB, et al. (2012) The Impact of Escaped Farmed Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar L.) on Catch Statistics in Scotland. PLoS ONE 7(9): e43560. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043560
Abstract: In Scotland and elsewhere, there are concerns that escaped farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) may impact on wild salmon stocks. Potential detrimental effects could arise through disease spread, competition, or inter-breeding. We investigated whether there is evidence of a direct effect of recorded salmon escape events on wild stocks in Scotland using anglers' counts of caught salmon (classified as wild or farmed) and sea trout (Salmo trutta L.). This tests specifically whether documented escape events can be associated with reduced or elevated escapes detected in the catch over a five-year time window, after accounting for overall variation between areas and years. Alternate model frameworks were somewhat inconsistent, however no robust association was found between documented escape events and higher proportion of farm-origin salmon in anglers' catch, nor with overall catch size. A weak positive correlation was found between local escapes and subsequent sea trout catch. This is in the opposite direction to what would be expected if salmon escapes negatively affected wild fish numbers. Our approach specifically investigated documented escape events, contrasting with earlier studies examining potentially wider effects of salmon farming on wild catch size. This approach is more conservative, but alleviates some potential sources of confounding, which are always of concern in observational studies. Successful analysis of anglers' reports of escaped farmed salmon requires high data quality, particularly since reports of farmed salmon are a relatively rare event in the Scottish data. Therefore, as part of our analysis, we reviewed studies of potential sensitivity and specificity of determination of farmed origin. Specificity estimates are generally high in the literature, making an analysis of the form we have performed feasible.