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Fish Welfare Report deliberately misleads public

UK - Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) have been accused of deliberately misleading public following publication of a new report today.

Responding to the publication of Closed Waters: The welfare of farmed Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Cod and Atlantic Halibut, Dr John Webster, Technical Director of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation said: "The CIWF and WSPA appear to be deliberately ignoring the advances made within the Scottish industry in an attempt to mislead the general public about the welfare of farmed fish.

"There has been a vast amount of research and development on fish health and welfare issues over the past 20 years. In Scotland, this includes work funded by the industry, SEERAD, Fisheries Research Services, DEFRA, academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, the European Commission and others.

"The industry also works proactively with many constructive and cooperative welfare groups to improve the health and welfare of farmed fish, such as RSPCA Freedom Food and SSPCA, which give rise to ongoing benefits for all concerned. Yet much of what CIWF and the WSPA have to say is often deliberately sensational and misleading," he added.

Andrew Grant, an independent veterinary consultant to the aquaculture industry, added: "The welfare of farmed fish was identified as a priority for action in the Scottish Executive led Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture.

"A welfare sub-group of the Aquaculture Joint Health Working Group was set up to inform welfare and husbandry practices in the Code of Good Practice for Finfish Aquaculture (CoGP), which was then published in 2003.

"The welfare sub-group was made up of stakeholder interests covering animal welfare, industry, scientists, veterinarians and government. The sub-group drew on recommendations of the Farmed Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) report (1996).

"The CoGP adopts the well recognised welfare principles quoted by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. Compliance with the CoGP is independently audited and all compliant farms have access to veterinary services and are required to have a veterinary health plan.

"This latest report from CIWF and WSPA revisits many old issues, all of which are referred to in the CoGP, and which have been subjective to investigation and remedial action where appropriate.

"The industry always seeks to continually improve standards of fish health and welfare by careful research and effective action. There have been many examples of fruitful cooperation with reputable and responsible animal welfare organisations," he added.

A senior aquaculture veterinarian also noted: "I am disappointed as this report doesn’t appear to recognise the advances that have been made in fish farming in Scotland.

"The industry needs to be applauded for its efforts in encouraging farming as an alternative method of supplying fish as a high quality, highly nutritious food in these days of diminishing wild stocks.

"The veterinary profession associated with fish farming is very pro-active with respect to the welfare situation at a number of different levels, including commissioning work, advising European regulators and overall supervision of the industry."

Sid Patten, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, added: "Those who perpetuate ill-informed criticism of the aquaculture industry should stop to think about the potential social impacts of their campaigning, as it could potentially damage livelihoods in the remote, rural communities that are dependent on fish farming."

the Fish Site Editor

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