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Scots salmon farms could face mandatory culls over sea lice

Scottish politicians have launched an official enquiry into the state of the country’s salmon farming industry, following a petition which seeks to protect wild salmonids from sea lice which are said to be emanating from salmon farms.

The petition – which aims to instigate culls on salmon farms that have exceeded the industry’s sea lice thresholds – was lodged in the Scottish Parliament by Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of MSPs has now agreed to conduct a formal inquiry into the issues it raises.

The petition recommends that the Scottish Parliament should: “seek to amend the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 to give Scottish Ministers a statutory duty to inspect farms and enforce sea lice control on salmon farms. This is for the express purpose of protecting wild salmonid fish from juvenile sea lice infestation from marine cage fish farms, and statutory powers to order immediate culls of any marine cage fish farm where average adult female sea lice numbers of farmed fish remain persistently above the industry’s Code of Good Practice thresholds”.

Over the medium term, S&TCS argues that “those farms consistently failing to control sea lice should be closed or relocated to move the worst performing farms away from salmonid rivers and migration routes”.

Responding to the decision by Holyrood, Guy Linley-Adams, a solicitor for S&TCS, said: “We are delighted that MSPs of all parties have shown such concern and interest and we thank them for launching this Inquiry. This will enable S&TCS to bring all MSPs attention to what they can do to protect Scotland’s iconic wild salmon and sea trout, and the wider Scottish environment, from the damage it is currently suffering as a result of salmon farming in marine open cages.”

Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), says the industry is not afraid of such scrutiny and would, in fact, welcome the opportunity to showcase their current range of lice management options.

“The industry performance in sea lice management is the best it has been for several years as a result of the investment in cleaner fish and mechanical removal techniques,” he stated.

“We would be delighted to host the whole Committee or any MSPs at a salmon farm to show them how well this is working…and will happily contribute to any inquiry the Committee may choose to launch in the future,” he added.

Rob Fletcher

Rob Fletcher

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