FISH-FARM­ING CRI­SIS HITS HEAD­LINES

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - News Reel -

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.

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