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Major infractions for Loch Duart, others

Sea lice are out of control in Scottish fish farms, said the Salmon and Trout Association Scotland (S&TA(S)).

The first two quarterly reports from the the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) for 2013 revealed sea lice numbers in over one third (47) of salmon farms on the Scottish mainland and in the Hebrides to be over the industry’s limit for sea lice, said the NGO.

S&TA(S) is now demanding answers for these figures from the SSPO and the Scottish Government.

Averaged data from three key fish-farming areas show sea lice numbers in excess of the industry’s own limits for every month from January to June 2013, according to the S&TA(S).

Eight active salmon farms, all run by Loch Duart, were found to exceed the industry’s threshold for sea lice by three times between February and April this year, and never went below twice the threshold in any month in 2013.

On seven farms operated by Wester Ross Fisheries and Scottish Sea Farms, between February and June, the average monthly lice count ranged between four to more than nine times the limit, according to the SSPO’s report.

Meanwhile, on 12 farms run by three companies, including The Scottish Salmon Company and Marine Harvest Scotland, the average monthly lice count between February and June was more than five times the threshold.

“The SSPO reports confirm that, in at least three key fish-farming regions of Scotland, sea lice numbers are out of control and consequently the fish farm companies are failing to protect wild fish from the devastating effects of the release of vast numbers of juvenile parasitic sea lice into west coast sea lochs,” said Hugh Campbell Adamson, chairman of S&TA(S).

“Why have companies such as Wester Ross Fisheries and Loch Duart not been expelled from SSPO membership when they fail so consistently and dramatically to keep sea lice numbers within the limits they have signed up to?”

This report into sea lice numbers comes shortly after a demand from the S&TA(S) for the SSPO to recall statements it made in support of research that found sea lice to be of no significant risk to wild salmon and trout, research that S&TA(S) says was later found to be inaccurate.

The call now from the S&TA(S) is for the Scottish government to use its power under the Aquaculture Act 2007 to order publication of farm-specific data to see the true extent of the problem.

“The SSPO’s reports also expose just how wrong the Scottish Government was when it refused earier this year, against the better advice of all west coast local authorities, all wild fish groups and its own Scottish Environment Protection Agency, to include a requirement in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill for all fish farms to publish weekly sea ice count data by law,” said Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to the S&TA(S) Aquaculture Campaign.