STOP PROTECTING THE SALMON FARMERS FROM PROPER SCRUTINY

The Salmon & Trout Association names the farms and shows Scottish Ministers and MSPs why they need to require full disclosure by law from the salmon farmers of sea–lice data

The Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)) is demanding that Scottish Government stop protecting salmon farmers from proper scrutiny. In advance of the Stage 3 debate next Wednesday 15th May on the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill in the Scottish Parliament, the S&TA(S) has today again shown the Scottish Government why it needs to require publication of weekly sea-lice count data relating to each salmon farm in Scotland by law, either by amending the current Bill, or by using existing powers in the Aquaculture Act 2007, by publishing a list of Scottish salmon farms that the Scottish Government’s own Fish Health Inspectorate has noted as breaching sea– lice thresholds.

The S&TA(S) viewed with disappointment the failure, at Stage 2, of the Committee of MSPs examining the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill to agree amendments tabled by Alex Fergusson MSP, which would have required the publication of farm-specific sea-lice data relating to each and every salmon farm in Scotland, bringing Scotland into line with Ireland and Norway.

The S&TA(S) understands that an amendment to the Bill to require publication of sea-lice data on a Farm Management Area basis may still be laid for Stage 3. While, in the view of the S&TA(S) this is not sufficient, it is a far better position than the Scottish Government’s stated preference for voluntary publication of aggregated data by the industry, a system that will hide the key evidence as to which fish-farms have sea-lice problems.

Guy Linley–Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA Aquaculture Campaign said: “The Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament is a litmus test of the Government’s attitude to wild fish conservation. If the Minister does not require fish-farms to publish weekly sea-lice count data by law, he will be missing an opportunity to protect and conserve Scotland wild fish heritage.

The key question for both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament is which is more important – the supposed confidential interests of the fish-farmers or the public right to know what is being released by the salmon-farmers into the wider environment potentially causing huge damage to wild fish conservation?”

Why is this important?

The negative impact of sea-lice, produced in huge numbers by fish-farms, on wild salmonids (salmon and sea-trout) is widely accepted by fisheries scientists including the Scottish Government’s own Marine Scotland Science[1]. In Ireland, the Government of Ireland’s agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland, is crystal-clear as to where the problem lies:

“the presence of salmon farms has been shown to significantly increase the level of sea lice infestation in sea trout in Ireland, Scotland and Norway. These lice infestations have been shown to follow the development of marine salmon aquaculture….

Studies from Ireland, Scotland and Norway have shown that in bays where salmon farming takes place the vast majority of sea lice originate from salmon farms……”[2]

The S&TA(S) has produced a summary of recent research into the impacts of salmon farming on wild fish[3]. Sea lice proliferate on the hundreds of thousands of farmed fish per fish-farm and the adult females release vast numbers of juvenile sea lice into the surrounding sea lochs, where wild sea-trout and salmon smolts (juvenile fish, only a few centimetres in length) are emigrating to sea for the first time. While a few sea-lice on a large adult fish are not a problem, even a light infestation on fragile juvenile smolts will be fatal.

Most importantly, there is clear evidence that both wild salmon and sea-trout are in decline in Scotland’s ‘aquaculture zone’, whereas, generally, populations have stabilized on the east and north coasts where there is no fish-farming.

What do we know about Scottish salmon farms and the sea-lice problem?

Currently, although the large fish-farm companies are required to collect and record weekly sea-lice count data at each of their farms (including the number of adult female lice found per farmed fish, which is a surrogate measure for the production of juvenile lice) they are not required by law to publish this data, nor submit it to the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI).

Nevertheless, using EU law on public access to environmental information, the S&TA(S) has over the last two years obtained all reports of inspections carried out by the FHI of Scottish salmon farms and many, although by no means all of those inspections, record whether or not at the time that records were inspected those records showed that the farms were either within or had breached the thresholds in the Code of Good Practice, the industry’s own voluntary code of conduct, for sea lice numbers on the farmed fish.

Albeit that the thresholds within the Code of Good Practice are not sufficiently protective to ensure that juvenile sea-lice emanating from the fish farms do not damage wild fish – a view agreed with by Marine Scotland Science the Government’s fisheries scientists – the FHI reports covering inspections between January 2011 and December 2012 inclusive show that at 67 of these inspected farms – the named fish-farms listed in Annex A – sea-lice had been recorded above Code of Good Practice thresholds.

There is clearly a problem here. The S&TA(S) believes that the public and those interested in wild fish conservation should have a legal right to know the extent of that problem.

What we are not allowed to know about lice problems on farms

What the list highlights is that, unless weekly farm-specific sea-lice count data is published by the fish-farms, the public cannot know:

– when exactly were sea-lice numbers on each salmon farm too high
– whether this occurred at the time of the wild smolt run and could have harmed wild fish
– by how much the salmon-farms listed in Annex A breached Code of Practice thresholds
– for how long (days or weeks or even months) were lice levels too high
– whether and how lice levels fluctuated through the 2-year farmed fish growing cycle
– whether the lice were dealt with quickly or not by the fish-farmers concerned
– what the implications might be for wild fish conservation and management

Annex A

The following farms were noted during Fish Health Inspectorate inspections in 2011 and 2012 as having breached Code of Good practice thresholds of sea-lice during the period for which records were inspected:

  1. North Moine, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  2. Ardessie B, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited
  3. Ardessie A, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited
  4. Oldany, Loch Duart Limited
  5. Loch Laxford, Loch Duart Limited
  6. Bagh Dail Nan Cean, Lakeland Marine Farm Limited
  7. Slocka Ronas Voe, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  8. Trilleachan Mor, The Scottish Salmon Company
  9. West Scotasay, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  10. Loch Carnan, Loch Duart Limited
  11. Lismore A, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  12. Ardgadden, The Scottish Salmon Company Limited
  13. Strondoir Bay, The Scottish Salmon Company Limited
  14. Corry, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited
  15. Ardessie A, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited
  16. Ardmaddy, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  17. Geasgill, The Scottish Salmon Company Limited
  18. Holms Geo, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  19. Inch Kenneth, The Scottish Salmon Company Limited
  20. Lippie Geo, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  21. Loch Tuath, The Scottish Salmon Company Limited
  22. North Havra, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  23. North Papa, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  24. North Uiskevagh, The Scottish Salmon Company
  25. Papa, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  26. Score Holms, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  27. Tanera, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  28. Teisti Geo, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  29. Torridon, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  30. West of Berwick, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  31. Wick of Belmont, Lakeland Unst Limited
  32. Papa, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  33. North Papa, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  34. Collafirth 2, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  35. Collafirth 3, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  36. Bornio, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  37. Geo of Valladale, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  38. Bight of Foraness, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  39. Fish Holm, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  40. Hogan, Hoganess Salmon Limited
  41. Shuna Castle, Kames Fish Farming Limited
  42. Ardmaddy, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  43. Bagh Dail Nan Cean, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  44. Port Na Cro, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  45. Badcall Bay, Loch Duart Limited
  46. Calva Bay, Loch Duart Limited
  47. Sgheir Bhuidhe, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  48. North Shire, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  49. Camas Glas, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  50. Glencripesdale, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  51. Invasion Bay, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  52. Scallastle, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  53. Vidlin North, Scottish Sea Farms Limited
  54. Lamlash, The Scottish Salmon Company
  55. Fish Holm, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  56. Ardmair, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited
  57. Loch Duich, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  58. Loch Alsh, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  59. Ardmuir, Lakeland Marine Farms Limited
  60. Vuia Beag, The Scottish Salmon Company
  61. West Loch Tarbert, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  62. Vacasay, The Scottish Salmon Company
  63. Taranish, The Scottish Salmon Company
  64. Arbhair, Lewis Salmon Limited
  65. Ardnish, Marine Harvest (Scotland) Limited
  66. Cole Deep, Hjaltland Sea Farms Limited
  67. Spelve A, Scottish Sea Farms Limited

Click here to view: Report from Marine Scotland Science: Sea lice and salmon, Dec 2012

Click here to view: Impact of salmon aquaculture on wild salmonids. Report

Click here to view: Salmon Farm Fact Sheet. From Inland Fisheries Ireland