Fish farm scrutiny required to prevent “irrecoverable” environmental damage, warn MSPs

A Holyrood committee wants tighter legislation of salmon farming

Salmon farming in Scotland needs more effective regulation, a Holyrood committee has said in a report which flags up a number of concerns about the industry.

The Parliament’s environment committee has warned that there has been a lack of progress in addressing the environmental impact of salmon farming since 2002.

In recent years thousands of salmon at sites throughout the west coast have been affected by sea lice, and the committee said “unacceptable levels of mortality persist” within the sector.

Among its recommendations the report calls for better “farm-by-farm” data to shape industry practices.

The committee said it was supportive of aquaculture, but further development and expansion “must be on the basis of a precautionary approach”.

The industry has a target of producing 300,000-400,000 tonnes of salmon in Scotland by 2030 — but that does not take into account the capacity of the environment to support this quantity of salmon, said the report.

The committee has warned of “irrecoverable damage to the environment” unless current issues are addressed.

Other recommendations made by the report included:

  • Changes to current farming practice. The industry needs to demonstrate it can effectively manage and mitigate its impacts.
  • An ecosystems-based approach to planning the industry’s growth and development in both the marine and freshwater environment, identifying where salmon farming can take place and what the carrying capacity of that environment is.
  • Independent research should examine a full cost-benefit analysis of recirculating aquaculture systems — (salmon farming in tanks) — and a comparative analysis with the sector as it currently operates in Scotland.

WHFP Editorial 9.3.18