FISH-FARMING CRISIS HITS HEADLINES
A COMBINATION of scandal and shocking scientific discoveries have pushed the fish-farming industry into the national media spotlight, where its practices may be scrutinised by the wider public rather than just the angling community. The Times newspaper (June 2) reported that an astonishing 1,000,000 farmed salmon died in Loch Fyne fish farms in 2016 as a result of a plague of sea-lice. Its findings were based on a report by Salmon & Trout Conservation, which revealed how 200,000 Loch Fyne fish died in October alone. Despite the deaths and sea-lice infestation, some Loch Fyne farms enjoyed RSPCA Assured certification and their salmon was sold in Co-op supermarkets. Sunday Herald (June 4) reported allegations that giant US firm Merck hired scientists to criticise a study that revealed the company’s fish farm chemical was causing widespread environmental damage in Scotland. Merck makes Slice, a pesticide containing emamectin benzoate that is used to kill sea-lice. According to Sunday Herald, the scientists behind the study and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) privately protested about Merck’s involvement in a peer review process, but were overruled by Scottish Government and salmon industry officials, who insisted Merck’s role should be kept secret. Sunday Herald also disclosed that at least 45 lochs have been contaminated by the chemical. The documents revealing the cover-up were obtained by Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland. Merck said: “Emamectin has been used for more than 15 years for the safe treatment of sea-lice on Atlantic salmon.” The drug has been widely approved for use by governments around the world. Further criticism of aquaculture to hit the headlines was a landmark study by Inland Fisheries Ireland scientists, reported in The Irish Times (May 22), which has indicated that grilse numbers can crash by more than 50 per cent in the years following high lice levels on nearby salmon farms during the smolt migration. Dr Samuel Shephard and Dr Paddy Gargan’s study was based on 26 years of data from the River Erriff. However, they also concluded that the impact of the lice does not explain the overall decline in the Erriff’s salmon population, which may also be caused by climate change.
Chemicals, feed and fish faeces form a sludge on the seabed under a fish farm.