Salmon farmers renege on transparency promises to Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee
Scotland’s salmon farmers have delivered an extraordinary snub to the Scottish Parliament’s influential Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee.
SSPO commitments to transparency on sea lice data made in oral evidence have been reneged on, ignoring the unanimous demands of the MSPs for the publication of this data as specified in the ECCLR Committee’s March report on salmon farming – despite a formal reminder by the Committee’s Convenor.
In its comprehensive and detailed report into the environmental impacts of salmon farming, published in March of this year, the ECCLR Committee addressed the issue of the publication of farm-specific sea lice data, and sea lice treatment data, both current and historic, by fish farmers.
The Committee requested that:
- Sea lice data should be published on a farm by farm basis and that there should be no delay in the publication of this;
- Data should be published in a consistent and comparable basis and include the numbers of fish affected and the action taken in response;
- Historic data sets should be published on a farm by farm basis (from the time records began) and that this should be voluntarily published before the end of April 2018;
- Data on salmon mortality should be published on a farm by farm basis along with contextual information;
- Historic salmon mortality data should be published on a farm by farm basis from the time records are available and that this too should be available by the end of April 2018.
In his Oral Evidence to the Committee on 6th February 2018, David Sandison of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation outlined clear SSPO commitments (at columns 3 and 4):
“We want to have a proper open and honest dialogue about the status of farm sites in Scotland.
If that data can be of use to the scientific and research community and can move us forward, that is fine. There is absolutely no problem with our being completely open and transparent about that data.
There is nothing that we wish to hide away”.
However, the SSPO has now spectacularly failed to live up to the commitments it made in Oral Evidence to the Committee.
This has prompted the Convenor of the Committee, Graeme Dey MSP, to write to the new chief executive of the SSPO on 1st June 2018, to request detail from the industry as to whether it intended to publish the information requested by the Committee.
In a totally inadequate response to the Committee, the SSPO's letter of 6th June 2018 merely provided data for February 2018, three months in arrears, and its retrospective summary of the data it has been publishing in aggregated form since 2013, a very long way short of what the Committee requested in its Report, as repeated by Mr Dey in his letter.
Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TC Scotland), said:
“The salmon farmers have now made it absolutely plain to MSPs that they have no intention of providing the data that a Committee of the Scottish Parliament unanimously recommended should be published by April 2018.
There is now no alternative left, but to change the law to force the publication of the data indicated by the ECCLR Committee.
Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland has already suggested on a number of occasions to Scottish Government that this can be achieved by amending the Record Keeping Order 2018, drawn under the Aquaculture and Fisheries Scotland Act 2007. Such a move does not require primary legislation and could be done extremely quickly.
The fish farming industry has decided to thumb its nose at the Scottish Parliament and we look to Scottish Ministers to respond accordingly, with firm action that the industry response has now so clearly invited”.
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TC Scotland, added:
“The salmon farmers are essentially giving two fingers to the Scottish Parliament. They are being breathtakingly arrogant in deciding unilaterally to only publish data three months in arrears and not provide any historic data.
Such a time lag for the release of individual farm sea lice data is unacceptable and unwarranted. There is no logical reason why the delay should be any more than a week or two, unless of course, they fear poorly performing farms being identified to the public, as they should be”.