A graph published in the Marine Harvest 2016 Annual Report has highlighted just how far Scotland's salmon farms are lagging behind their international colleagues when it comes to sea lice control. It also demonstrates how the Scottish situation is worsening rather than improving.
The Report's graph indicates that 69% of Marine Harvest sites in Scotland were above the industry’s Code of Good Practice trigger-levels for treatment of sea lice in 2016. The highest figure elsewhere was in Canada where just 13% of sites were above the national trigger-level for chemical treatment.
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), said of the graph: “The situation in Scotland compared to other countries is truly shocking and a damning indictment of Scottish Government’s failure to regulate salmon farming effectively. This is incontrovertible proof that Scotland really is the dirty man of global aquaculture. It lays bare Scottish Government’s complacent mantra that the industry here is well regulated and sustainable. Ministers must surely now cease peddling ‘alternative facts’ when it comes to the industry’s environmental performance.”
However, it is not just Marine Harvest that are experiencing problems in Scotland. The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation's (SSPO) own sea lice data confirms other companies are as bad as, and in some instances worse than, Marine Harvest at controlling sea lice. In recent months, the figures for Loch Fyne (Argyll) and Loch Roag (Lewis) have been particularly poor, but Marine Harvest has no farms in either location. The Scottish Salmon Company has ten farms in Loch Fyne and seven farms in Loch Roag.
Marine Harvest’s CEO Alf-Helge Aarskog is frank about the reasons behind Scotland's poor performance. In the report he says: “Poorly managed fish farming systems can lead to a high frequency of diseases and increased use of antibiotics or other medicines, including medication to combat sea lice, the industry’s main challenge at present. We know that two important drivers in this regard are a too high density of fish farms and too rapid growth in a small area.”
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, added: “With Marine Harvest warning against too high density of farms and too rapid growth, the Scottish Government’s growth targets – of doubling the size of the industry by 2030 – look increasingly dangerous to the environment and to the industry alike.”