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2009 has been a busy year for the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO). Committed to achieving an average three to five per cent increase in production per year over the next five years, whilst safeguarding Scotland's marine environment as well as realising the economic and local community benefits of that expansion is the core of their activities.

Research and Innovation

In order to meet market demand and maintain Scotland’s reputation as a producer of high quality food, the industry recognises that it must demonstrate its commitment to sound principles of optimal welfare, high standards of husbandry and environmental management.

Sea Lice
With a long history of research to inform the management and control of sea lice on farms, the SSPO is currently sponsoring an enhanced programme of applied research projects, including work designed to help improve our understanding of the biology of wrasse and to improve the commercial production and use of wrasse as natural control agents as part of sea lice management on farms.

A pilot project in Shetland on hydrodynamic modelling aims to help farmers engaged in the development of Farm Management Agreements understand how water exchange between zones can assist in the movement of lice, thus helping to inform production planning. We are encouraged by the Scottish Government’s announcement that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Norway and hope that this will create significant additional investment in collaborative research into sea lice and other areas leading to continued improvements in fish health.

Containment
The end of 2009 saw two significant losses of fish from pens.

A new action plan has been developed through the ‘Improved Containment’ working group of the Ministerial Group on Aquaculture which is designed to inform containment best practice.

The industry is committed to improving its record and will introduce workshops in 2010 covering predators, equipment and containment.

The SSPO continues to sponsor work on novel net materials and associated technology to explore new potential opportunities.

An independent review by experts in veterinary science and engineering carried out this year indicates that a move to closed containment on-shore is not a viable option at this time for fish health and environmental reasons. There are significant implications for fish welfare at the high stocking densities required to make systems economically viable in tanks and the very high energy and carbon costs to keep such tanks operational make this an environmentally unfriendly option.

Modelling
SSPO is working on various projects, with welcome support from Scottish Government and the Crown Estate, to find ways to develop and refine predictive models, such as DEPOmod and AUTO DEPOmod, which are used by SEPA as regulatory tools, to make them more appropriate and relevant to the range of fish farm sites present in the industry.

Predators
The industry has jointly sponsored field trials for an improved seal exclusion device being developed through the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at The University of St Andrews. The device differs considerably from other acoustic models currently used and the SMRU is investigating its commercial potential.

SSPO has also offered assistance to Advocates for Animals in their survey of fish farming companies, has supported a Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF) project on seal behaviour around fish farms and undertaken monitoring of seals around fish farms.

Fish Health
When a small number of companies were affected by Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) early in 2009, SSPO provided technical support based on the Code of Practice for ISA which the industry formulated ten years ago. The rapid response to the identification of the ISA virus restricted the outbreak to a very small area where salmon farming is practised.

Since ISA came fully under control, a significant amount of effort has gone towards the development and refinement of area management agreements designed to maximise fish health and welfare and minimise opportunities for health issues to develop in the future. SSPO continues to monitor and report on potential legislative changes to protect the Scottish industry’s high fish health status.

Algal Blooms and Jelly Fish
SSPO has commissioned a number of projects on algal blooms and jelly fish. These naturally occurring phenomena can cause significant welfare problems for fish.

Food Safety
Good fish health means high quality salmon for consumers and SSPO also operates monitoring programmes of various sorts to demonstrate the safety and quality of Scottish Farmed Salmon. In addition, the SSPO liaises regularly with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to keep the Agency informed on a range of legislative and food safety matters.

Regulation & Legislation

During the passage of the Marine (Scotland) Bill through the Scottish Parliament the SSPO’s focus was on two main areas: planning development and seal conservation legislation.

Fish Farm Development
SSPO was concerned that the Bill proposed to maintain fish farm development planning under the Town and Country Planning Marine Fish Farming (Scotland) Order 2007, whilst all other marine activities are to be approved under a new marine licensing system established by the new Marine (Scotland) Bill. In any future instance where there is competition for marine sites between salmon farming and alternative uses, salmon farming might be disadvantaged by this regulatory position.

SSPO favoured a system that would have brought aquaculture under Marine Licensing, but with implementation devolved by Marine Scotland to the relevant Local Authorities.

The proposed amendments were lost on a narrow margin of votes and the salmon farming industry remains with the status quo of planning development, under the Town and Country Planning Marine Fish Farming (Scotland) Order 2007. However, the ongoing work under the ‘Reform of Planning System’ initiative and publication of “Delivering Planning Reform for Aquaculture”, should allow the industry to achieve a smoother and more efficient operation of the present process.

Seals
SSPO made representation against a ban on all shootings of seals at every stage – stressing that there should be a humane, rational approach to wildlife management that recognised that seals are predators. Despite several proposed amendments to ban shooting, the SSPO position was supported by the Parliament.

A Fresh Start: The Renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture
SSPO‘s Chairman, Chief Executive and members are heavily involved in the Ministerial Working Group on Aquaculture, chaired by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Minister for Environment, and in the working groups set up to drive action on the key points of the strategic framework. The Groups covering fish health, finance, containment, marketing and image, and licensing have ambitious work plans and will report directly to the Minister on progress during 2010.

European affairs
The Commission published the Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in April, which recognises the deficiencies of the current system and the need to conserve fish stocks for future generations. Aquaculture depends on the fishing sector for raw materials for fish feed like fishmeal and fish oil. There is also potential for aquaculture to be included in the provisions of future CFP regulation.

The SSPO responded to the consultation process on the CFP reform with suggestions and a view of how it sees the future focus and development of aquaculture within the new policy.

The strategy document “Building a Sustainable Future for Aquaculture” was published in April 2009 by the European Commission.

SSPO believes that the strategy is a good start, but has some concerns that the recommendations will involve unnecessary bureaucracy, cost and duplication since the Scottish salmon farming industry is already significantly ahead of other sectors in husbandry and environmental standards.

Members' Representation
The SSPO makes regular representation to Local Authorities, Scottish Government, MSPs and Committees, European Commission officials, MEPS and other regulators on issues affecting the industry. It also responds to consultations to reflect the members’ views.

Reputation

Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture

Launched in 2006, the Code is presently undergoing a comprehensive review in light of the European Fish Health Directive and recent Scottish fish and marine legislation. The Code of Good Practice Management Group is also planning to consider proposals put forward by the Healthier Fish and Containment working groups from the Ministerial Working Group on Aquaculture. It is anticipated that a substantially revised document will be launched in early autumn 2010.

Media
SSPO provides comment, briefings and interviews to national and international media.

Campaigns run in 2009 ranged from economic importance of the sector, the development of the Marine Bill, the greater protection of seals, environmental performance and the health benefits of salmon.

There was considerable media interest in the industry’s management of predators at fish farms and SSPO took BBC Countryfile to a farm to dispel the myths surrounding the issue and also talked exclusively to The Times about the real number of seals shot.

A short film about the industry, and how it has developed and addressed early problems was shot in the autumn and is currently available to view online as part of The Scotsman’s Business Club. http://businessclub.scotsman.com

Industry Survey
A survey highlighting the economic contribution made by the industry to Scotland, and particularly rural communities, was published by the SSPO, attracting a weight of positive media coverage. The findings have demonstrated the continuous social and economic benefits the industry has brought to Scotland. The importance of that investment has also been noted by Parliament in several debates this year. The report can be obtained at www.scottishsalmon.co.uk

RSPC Freedom Food
Scottish farmed salmon topped the RSPCA’s Freedom Food chart in 2009, with an impressive 60 per cent of production participating in the stringent animal welfare scheme.


SSPO hosted a Parliamentary briefing in Holyrood to present the industry’s position on the management of seals and other predators around fish farms. There was an excellent turn out of MSPs.

Markets and Statistics
The industry is increasingly well recognised as a major contributor to the Scottish economy, and with domestic and export sales rising, salmon farming is also an important player in Scotland’s food industry.

Salmon farming is a high growth, global sector:

  • Over 13 million fresh Scottish salmon were exported in 2009 – an increase of 24 per cent when compared with the previous year
  • Exports of premium Label Rouge Scottish Salmon leapt 19 per cent to record levels in 2009
  • Exports of fresh salmon increased to 65,480 tonnes from 52,671 tonnes the previous year
  • Scottish salmon now reaches 55 countries worldwide
  • Europe remains the industry’s biggest export market, with France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain and Irish Republic as notable importers
  • The USA, Canada and the Far East are the biggest destinations in the rest of the world
  • Aquaculture, probably the fastest growing food-producing sector, now accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the world’s food fish. In 1980 only nine per cent of the fish consumed by people came from aquaculture
  • The UN FAO reports that aquaculture is the only way to meet the surging demand for seafood

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.
June 2010

the Fish Site Editor

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