DISTRESSING pictures show a salmon partially decapitated by a discarded plastic tag that cut into its flesh as the fish grew in size.
A fisherman was so shocked by the sight when he caught the salmon in the Scottish Highlands that he took a picture of the damage caused.
The creature somehow survived despite the red plastic bottle security seal caught tight around its head. But tissue had formed around the plastic cutting into the grilse – a salmon returning to fresh water after a single winter at sea.
The gruesome images of the fish, caught on the Inverpolly Estate in Achiltibuie, come as pressure grows from environmental groups for a crackdown on plastic waste.
Inverpolly Estate shared the two images on their Facebook page yesterday with the caption: “A small grilse caught on the river today, it had a bottle security seal deeply embedded just behind its head. Another example of the effect of marine litter.”
The first image shows the fish with the red plastic stuck just below its head, with the red scarring around where it has become lodged.
The gruesome second picture shows the scale of the damage caused after the fish’s head has been removed.
The plastic has curved round its whole body and gone through the skin, becoming stuck just above the spine.
A spokesman for the Inverpolly Estate said: “It’s a sad reflection of what marine litter does to the fish.
“It was still alive when the fisherman caught it but it’s rare they would survive this.
“At sea it’s swam through the plastic then it’s cut through the back of its neck. The plastic was sitting just above the spine and appears to have restricted its growth.
“I’ve never seen this before. Scar tissue seems to have grown over the plastic and the rest of the plastic was lodged near the gills.
“It would have been causing the fish some distress.”
Living Seas for the North West Highlands shared the photos and commented: “Perfect example ,in the negative sense, of how plastics affect and impact all locations and life.
“A grilse – a salmon that has returned to fresh water after a single winter at sea – caught on river at Inverpolly Estate in remote and what many believe is a pristine part of the Highlands with a plastic bottle tag wrapped round its neck.”