Campaign group accuse local salmon farm of welfare issues

A salmon farm based in the Western Isles has been accused of failing to care for its fish - and not for the first time - after photographs appeared on social media.

Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 12:56 pm
Advertising image from the Scottish Salmon Company

The Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) claimed that images attributed to the government agency Marine Scotland, show fish which are diseased with ulcerations, but the company disputes this.

The Fish Health Inspectorate’s ‘Case Information’ for February 2020 (not published online until October 12) includes details of an inspection of The Scottish Salmon Company’s salmon farm at Kyles of Vuia in Loch Roag on the Isle of Lewis. The shocking images captured by the Scottish Government’s inspectors contrasts with the glossy marketing brochures used by the Faroese/Norwegian-owned parent company Bakkavor.

A letter from Marine Scotland to The Scottish Salmon Company dated March 24, 2020 detailed disease and mortality problems at Kyles of Vuia salmon farm.

How inspectors found some of the fish during an inspection of the Kyles of Vuia site.

The contents of that letter, which the Gazette has had sight of,states that inspectors noted a number of lethargic fish, several with lesions.

In August 2020, an investigative report claimed that the salmon farm at Kyles of Vuia had been “reprimanded for feeding a toxic pesticide to fish twice as often as permitted and breaching safety limits”.

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) were accused by government watchdogs of breaking the rules governing the use of emamectin, a chemical fed to farmed salmon to kill the sea lice that can literally eat them alive. In that instance the company were issued with an ‘advisory’ letter, leading to calls that the rules and enforcement have to be tightened up.

Marine Scotland’s website states their purpose is to “manage Scotland’s seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability, working closely with our key delivery partners and others”, in addition to “promoting sustainable, profitable and well-managed fisheries and aquaculture industries in Scotland.”

The Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture is an international network dedicated to advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture. GAAIA recognizes that salmon, shrimp, tuna and ‘Frankenfish’ farming jeopardises sustainable and safe seafood production. By highlighting aquaculture practices, GAAIA say they are leading the fight for standards-setting and certification schemes for farmed salmon and shrimp production in particular.

Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, warned of “serious implications” for wild salmon at nearby Langavat conservation area.

“It is now surely time for SSC to end its operations in Loch Roag,” said the group’s director, Andrew Graham-Stewart.

A spokesman for Marine Scotland said: “The images were taken as part an inspection conducted in accordance with Scottish Government’s aquatic animal disease surveillance programme. The inspection is complete and all results and findings have been published on the Scottish Government website as part of an active publication plan at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/publication-of-fish-health-inspectorate-information/.

“There are no outstanding issues or enforcement actions as a result of the inspection which was conducted.”

A spokesperson for The Scottish Salmon Company said: “The welfare of our stock is of paramount importance. Marine Scotland carried out a site inspection after we reported a seal attack and the images released show a small number of fish showing signs of such an attack. Our team worked quickly to remove any distressed stock showing signs of injury.

“Accusations of welfare abuse and the implication that these images show signs of diseases are untrue. Like any farmer on land or sea we have to deal with attacks from natural predators, such as seals. We invest heavily in measures to exclude and deter these attacks, including rigid netting and deterrent devices, which are only switched on when essential.”