Scottish salmon farms face ongoing sea lice problems
Sea lice numbers on farmed salmon in Scotland were still “out of control” in the first quarter of 2014, according to new data from the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization (SSPO).
The latest SSPO quarterly sea lice report reveals that average lice numbers were over thresholds in 14 out of 30 regions for which data is reported by the industry. Particular hotspots, for the fifth quarterly report in a row, include Kennart to Gruinard in Wester Ross where there are seven farms operated by two companies, Wester Ross Fisheries and Scottish Sea Farms.
Although three of the sites were fallow during the latest quarter, the farms at Ardmair, Corry and Tanera (two sites, 1 and 2) collectively breached industry sea lice standards and will have been producing juvenile sea-lice in numbers that would threaten the survival of any migrating young wild salmon and sea-trout leaving the rivers of Wester Ross for the first time.
“This will almost certainly include wild salmon from the Special Area for Conservation on the Little Gruinard River, where Atlantic salmon are strictly protected under European law,” said the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) when it analyzed the data. “Sea lice have been over the threshold in this part of Wester Ross for 15 straight months now. Despite three area-wide sea-lice treatments last year, and one this year, and a staggering 32 other treatments for lice in 15 months, the industry here still cannot get its sea-lice problem under control.”
Other regions — Inchard to Kirkaig North, Kishorn and Carron, Loch Long and Croe, Morar to Shiel, Skye and small isles (North), Awe and Nell (Argyll), Add and Ormsary (also Argyll), Mull, Islay and Jura, the east of Lewis, North Uist, South Uist and Shetland East — also had sea lice levels well over the thresholds for treatment, threatening migrating wild salmon and sea trout with lethal infestation, according to S&TA.
“In Norway, the fish farmers have been read the riot act over lice. In Scotland, they have been invited to trade dinners and cozy chats. All the assurances and promises made in recent months by the minister, for example during the passage of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Act through Holyrood, ring rather hollow,” said Hugh Campbell Adamson, S&TA Scotland chairman.
“There are regions of Scotland where the fish farmers demonstrably cannot control sea lice on farmed fish. The industry also includes serial offenders, who seem either unwilling or incapable of controlling their sea lice but, collectively, the industry does not seem prepared to deal with its own ‘bad apples.’
“In both cases, the minister must now act. For him to say that he is keeping the situation ‘under review’ is no longer credible. He should direct Scottish regulators to require prolonged fallowing of entire regions where sea lice are out of control (and not just the odd farm for a few weeks). Then there should be a thorough examination of whether aquaculture can continue in these regions. Given the particularly appalling track record in Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom, the S&TA is already very clear that we should now stop current farming fish in Two Brooms completely.”