Will salmon farming ever stop having a hard time?
By Nicki Holmyard, SeafoodSource contributing editor
02 October, 2012
The proposed Aquaculture and Freshwater Fisheries Bill in Scotland is causing a measure of disquiet amongst salmon farmers, not the least because in its present form it will bring in more stringent controls to an already heavily regulated industry. However it appears that criticism from the recreational fishing lobby has gained the ear of policy makers and could lead to a potential stifling of future development.
Speaking at the recent Humber Seafood Summit, Scott Landsburgh chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization (SSPO) explained that production of salmon in Scotland has increased year-on-year over the past three years, with more than 154,000 metric tons (MT) grown in 2011. Overall the industry is worth more than GBP 500 million.
Landsburgh argued that growth of the industry could be carried out in a sustainable manner and that an increase of more than 25 percent was achievable by 2020. He believes for too long the industry has been misunderstood, with criticisms lacking robust scientific evidence to back them up.
He pointed out that new operating and reporting restrictions, liability rules and fixed penalties for infringements likely to be included in the draft bill, would all have a negative effect. On top of that, ill-informed activists continue to slam the industry, when Scotland should be celebrating the fact that farmed salmon is the country’s largest food export, with more than 95,000 MT exported in 2011 to 64 countries around the world.
“Scottish salmon is selling particularly well in emerging markets. Exports to the Far East have gone up by 894 percent from 682 MT to 6,779 MT, and those to the Middle East have risen by 17 percent from 1,340 MT to 1,562 MT,” he said. “FAO acknowledges that worldwide aquaculture production will need to double by 2030 to meet growing demand for protein, yet it is getting increasingly difficult to make this happen.”
Using selective data, the angling lobby constantly shout about the environmental impacts of salmon farms, but Landsburgh argues that any impacts are local and temporary.
“Salmon farming is an energy-efficient way of producing meat, particularly when compared to the farming of land-based animals, and only uses about 150 hectares of sea, which is roughly one quarter of the area taken up by a large sheep farm. We are working with the Carbon Trust to produce a best practice guide to promote energy efficiency and further reduce the environmental footprint, but at present it is a lot less than the beef and pork industries,” he said.
Fish From, a new Scottish company, says that closed containment is the answer to more environmentally friendly salmon farming, and is currently working on plans for three onshore sites and the development of Fish From kit farms to sell around the world.
According to Andrew Robertson, one of the main benefits is that fresh fish can be available 7 days per week, all year round, and on the market within hours of harvest. It also comes with impeccable environmental credentials, and will be farmed in a controlled environment protected from harmful pathogens and parasites, with no consequent need for chemical solutions.
Controversially, the Fish From systems will grow salmon entirely in fresh water, and Robertson cites the work undertaken by The Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, West Virginia as the inspiration for his company. “Their scientists have proven that salmon can be grown from egg to market size in fresh water and that a very high quality product is the end result. Along with chefs and restaurateurs, we have tasted ten-pound fish from their system, and it received very favorable reactions from everyone,” he said.
“The concept also appeals to government, industry and conservation-minded consumers, and interest in the kits has already come from Romania, New Zealand and North America.”
Robertson explained that the systems will recycle 99.8 percent of the water, use fish food from sustainable resources, and treat effluent to negate any environmental impact.
We see Fish From as part of the solution to feeding the world in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way,” he said.
We shall watch developments with interest!
02 October, 2012