Salmon Farming

What is the impact of open-net salmon farms on wild fish?

Science has given a loud warning. Now we must listen.

Numbers of wild salmon and sea trout found in Scotland’s rivers have declined by 70% over the past two decades

Global populations of wild Atlantic salmon have declined significantly in recent decades – from some 8-10 million in the 1970s to just 3 million today. Some of the causes, notably climate change, are outside our control. Of those factors within our control, industrial salmon farming, which has grown exponentially since the 1970s, is probably the most impactful.

Poorly run and badly sited open-net salmon farms are putting wild fish at risk from parasites (notably sea lice) and diseases, chemical pollution and farmed fish escapes which threaten the genetic integrity of wild species, compromising their future survival.

Open-net salmon farming is fundamentally unsustainable.


all open-net salmon farms should be closed.

We campaign for the closure of all existing open-net farms. We also vigorously oppose any proposed expansion of existing farms or the establishment of new farms.

It severely compromises the integrity of the marine (and freshwater) ecosystems of Scotland. To enable ecosystems the opportunity to recover, all open-net salmon farms should be closed, and the industry moved to closed containment systems (closed containment review linked here) which put a physical barrier between farmed and wild fish and the wider environment.

For two decades we have campaigned to prevent, or at least limit, the harm caused by open-net salmon farming. We have repeatedly called for tighter regulation to protect wild fish. In 2018 (a direct consequence of our parliamentary petition in 2016) two all-party Scottish Parliament committees conducted a comprehensive inquiry into salmon farming. They highlighted the continuing negative impact of salmon farming in Scotland – on the marine environment in general and wild salmon and sea trout in particular. They were unanimous in recommending fundamental changes to the way that the industry is regulated (“the status quo is not an option”).

Since then, the Scottish Government has done very little to implement the detailed recommendations of the inquiry. In July 2021 it announced a “review” of the regulation of salmon farming which will not be concluded until the end of 2023. This amounts to kicking the can, not only further down the road, but almost completely out of sight. In the meantime, it will allow and indeed encourage the industry to expand – whatever the consequences for the environment and for wild fish.

Details of the two parliamentary inquiries to consider industry reform.

ECCLR Committee Inquiry: Report

REC Committee Inquiry: Report

latest news

Why the Griggs review signals more bad news for wild fish

16 February 2022
Wednesday 16th February On Thursday 10th February Professor Russel Griggs published a report, on behalf of Scottish Government, that follows his review of the regulatory system governing aquaculture in Scotland. In the days that followed, Scottish Government were quick to welcome findings.  Salmon & Trout Conservation’s director in Scotland, Andrew Graham-Stewart believes that the review […]

Why SEPA’s latest proposals for managing sea lice are fundamentally inadequate

26 January 2022
Our director in Scotland, Andrew Graham-Stewart responds to SEPA’s proposals for managing interactions between sea lice from salmon farms and wild salmon. We are shocked and dismayed at what is being proposed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The proposals set out fall far short of what is required to protect wild salmon from […]

Wild Salmon Strategy Statement

14 January 2022
Too little, too late Regrettably, the detail within Scottish Government’s new Wild Salmon Strategy provides little cause for optimism. On the positive side, we welcome the requirement for SEPA to review all existing CAR licences with a view to improving fish passage (salmon need unrestricted access to as much of river catchments as possible to […]

S&TC launches new innovative salmon farming sea lice heat map

01 December 2021
Wednesday, 1st December The new map highlights locations, intensity and scale of the main sea lice infestations on salmon farms on a weekly basis. Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) has today launched a new indicative geographical representation of sea lice emissions from Scottish salmon farms in the west Highlands and Islands. Drawing on the […]

COP26 caterers sourcing farmed salmon from company with appalling environmental record

27 October 2021
Loch Duart Ltd is the only salmon producer in receipt of Scottish Government Enforcement Notices during 2021 over failure to control sea lice parasites Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland says COP26 is diverging from its own published guidelines on the sourcing of food by contracting Loch Duart Ltd to supply farmed salmon for the event. […]

New Scottish Government study confirms the severe damage being done to wild salmon populations by salmon farming

22 October 2021
Scottish Government study confirms that many wild salmon populations in the west Highlands and Islands are severely compromised with farmed salmon genes The levels of genetic introgression have serious implications for the “fitness” and thus the future survival prospects of already depleted wild salmon populations   A comprehensive new study by Scottish Government scientists – […]

S&TC announces new position on salmon farming

13 October 2021
Given Scottish Government’s continuing refusal to regulate open-net salmon farming effectively, Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) calls for the end of all open-net salmon farming as soon as possible In the face of continuing Scottish Government failure to introduce effective regulation of the industry, S&TC believes all open-net salmon farming in Scotland must now be […]

Call for Scottish Government to substantiate its claim that salmon farming is “sustainable”

30 September 2021
Salmon & Trout Conservation call for Scottish Government to substantiate its claim that salmon farming is “sustainable”. The failure to do so will mean that Scottish Government is guilty of blatant greenwash.  Salmon and Trout Conservation in Scotland is challenging Scottish Ministers to justify their frequent claims that open-net salmon farming, as practised in Scotland, […]

Dismay at Scottish Government’s continuing refusal to address the serious environmental issues associated with Scotland’s salmon farming industry

01 September 2021
  28 NGOs and community groups have written to Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon expressing deep dismay at Scottish Government’s continuing refusal to address the serious environmental issues associated with Scotland’s salmon farming industry. In early August the Cabinet Secretary announced a two year “review” of salmon farming regulation, thus delaying any significant tightening […]

Why Environmental Management Plans are doomed to fail

17 June 2021
Why Environmental Management Plans are doomed to fail in protecting wild salmon from sea-lice.  Not only do they fail to apply the precautionary principle, they will not work on their own basis. Following the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee’s Report into salmon farming (published in November 2018), the Scottish Government has been relying (and for the time being […]

Because of your support we've achieved:

SFR Achievements 1

 An in-depth Scottish Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the salmon farming industry’s impact on wild fish

SFR Achievements 2

A successful petition calling for stronger Government regulation, which lead to initiation of the inquiry

SFR Achievements 3

Our documentary on Loch Maree had a significant impact on the Committee and on social media

examples of Our work

S&TC on BBC's The One Show

September 2018

S&TC on BBC Scotland's Landward

October 2018

Eaten Alive: The Demise of Loch Maree



S&TC's Loch Maree film is a powerful and graphic illustration of how a poorly sited salmon farm can have a devastating impact on what was previously a prolific and entirely sustainable wild fishery.

Sea trout stocks in Loch Maree collapsed in 1988, one year after the start of salmon farming in Loch Ewe, the sea loch into which Loch Maree drains via the River Ewe.

We are working to restore what was formerly the finest sea trout fishery in Scotland. Together we can encourage reform of the industry, relieving wild fish from fish farming pressure.

Only with your help will places like Loch Maree be filled with a healthy abundance of wild fish once again.

Picture / film credits:
James Merryweather
Gairloch Heritage Museum
NJFF-Hordaland/Gisle Sverdrup (under water sea trout footage)
Alv Arne Lyse (sea trout pictures and farmed salmon)

With thanks to:
Inveran Estate
Wester Ross Area Salmon Fisheries Board
Wester Ross Fisheries Trust
Jane Grant

what can you do to help?

Start in the supermarket.

Our campaigning has lead to full disclosure of which salmon farms are not keeping their lice under control. To date, no meaningful enforcement action, such as the ordering of culls or immediate reductions in fish-farm biomass, has been taken against serial offenders.

The Scottish Government has a legal duty to protect and conserve wild salmon and sea trout, but this data shows it is failing to rein in the biggest threat to wild salmonids.

Is salmon on your menu?

Help secure a sustainable future for wild fish

Resources & Documents Archive

We have a range of informative resources to help you understand the issues. Please feel free to download and use (with credit to S&TC).

Our work, lobbying and research is extensive and complex; if you want to dive deeper into the details then please explore our document archive below:

Our written evidence to Scottish Parliamentary Committees' Inquiries into salmon farming.

Our critique of Scottish Government's regulation of sea lice within salmon farms - sent to all heads of delegation within the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO).

We rely on your support to protect wild fish and the places they live.

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

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