OC and Flytier, the trouble is that the fish farms were originally welcomed by many, including angling interests. The places where they are mostly found, notably the West coasts of Scotland and Ireland, are very poor areas where there is little industry and unemployment is a serious problem. Traditionally, crofting/subsistence farming was the principal occupation, but with changes in farming (and specifically the collapse in the wool market worldwide), it is increasingly hard to make any sort of living thereby, let alone one that you might regard as meeting 21st Century standards. There is a serious problem of depopulation, with communities dropping below the Ďcritical massí required to maintain schools and services, consequent loss of cultural heritage etc. So fish farming was (and is) regarded by many as a positive development in these areas.
Furthermore many people believed that aquaculture would relieve some pressure on wild fish stocks. As you are no doubt aware, there are efforts being made to stop the netting of salmon round the coasts of the British Isles, as well as on the high seas. It stands to reason that a ready supply of cheap, farmed fish would help to lower the price of wild salmon and make netting operations less attractive. It would have the further effect of reducing large-scale poaching, which remains a problem in some places.
So there were good reasons to welcome the fish farms initially. The problem is now that they do provide a source of income to poor areas; one which, even given the prices we have to pay for our fishing here, would probably never be supplanted by revenue from increases in fishing-related tourism. The actual job figures may be open to debate, but itís hard to argue for the total cessation of an industry that is now perceived as one of the economic lynchpins of these areas. One concern, for me, about the anti-farm protests is that they donít yet seem able to offer a viable alternative to the existing system, and without that any campaign seems rather hollow. This, I guess, is why Bruce Sandison is currently concentrating on trying to persuade consumers to buy alternatives to farmed salmon (eg Alaskan wild salmon); at the same time conservation bodies are working with the fish farmers to see if a less damaging system of aquaculture can be worked out.