Scot­land prom­ises farm by farm sea lice data

Fish Farmer - - News focus -

SCOT­TISH salmon farm­ers are to pub­lish all data as­so­ci­ated with sea lice counts on a farm by farm ba­sis, the SSPO (Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion) con­firmed last month. The SSPO’s gen­eral man­ager, David San­di­son, said the move fol­lows a de­ci­sion taken by the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s board which in­cludes all but one of Scot­land’s salmon farm­ing com­pa­nies in Novem­ber last year.

San­di­son, giv­ing ev­i­dence in Holy­rood’s En­vi­ron­ment, Cli­mate Change and Land Re­form (ECCLR) Com­mit­tee’s in­quiry into salmon farm­ing, in­sisted health was ‘the core’ of the salmon busi­ness.

We ac­knowl­edge there are gaps in the data and we could def­i­nitely en­hance that fur­ther. In that re­gard, I’d like to con­firm to­day that from here on forth­with we will be pub­lish­ing all data as­so­ci­ated with sea lice counts on a farm by farm ba­sis.’

The SSPO has made such data avail­able in a re­gional for­mat for the past five or six years, said San­di­son, and Scot­land’s big­gest salmon farmer, Marine Har­vest, pub­lishes its sea lice counts on the com­pany web­site, with a three-month time lag.

Asked by the com­mit­tee con­venor, Graeme Dey, the SNP MSP for An­gus South, whether the data could be pub­lished in real time, San­di­son said in­evitably there has to be some time lag as it takes time to col­lect data from farms and col­lec­tivise’ it.

But the in­dus­try’s new Strate­gic Farmed Fish Health Frame­work Work­ing Group, de­vel­op­ing a 10-year heath strat­egy with Marine Scot­land, would con­sider the time frame for re­leas­ing sea lice data.

Asked why the SSPO had de­cided to make more data pub­lic now, San­di­son said We be­lieve we need to move the de­bate for­ward we hear all the ar­gu­ments, we hear all the back­ground noise but we want to have a proper, hon­est di­a­logue about the ac­tual sta­tus of farm sites in Scot­land.’

If peo­ple feel that the data can be of use and help move the in­dus­try for­ward, the sec­tor has no prob­lem in be­ing ‘com­pletely open and trans­par­ent about that data’.

The SSPO will also make avail­able his­tor­i­cal data re­lat­ing to mor­tal­i­ties We will pro­vide mor­tal­ity data at farm level, and give a com­men­tary on any dis­ease is­sues that may be as­so­ci­ated with that mor­tal­ity from time to time.’

As to whether sea lice data should be re­leased on a statu­tory or vol­un­tary ba­sis, San­di­son said he had no par­tic­u­lar view.

The two other panel mem­bers dur­ing the ses­sion, John Aitchi­son, of the Friends of the Sound of Jura, and Sam Collin, marine plan­ning o cer at the Scot­tish Wildlife Trust and con­vener of the LINK Aqua­cul­ture sub­group, wel­comed the SSPO move to­wards greater trans­parency.

But Aitchi­son ex­pressed con­cern over what he said was a lack of a pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple in the sit­ing of salmon farms.

San­di­son dis­puted this, say­ing there is a limit on farm biomass, and there is sig­nif­i­cant pre­cau­tion built into the con­sent­ing process’.

Aitchi­son also asked why Scot­land wasn’t in­vest­ing in land based projects- such as a pilot pro­gramme to farm salmon in a tank in Machri­han­ish, run by a Nor­we­gian com­pany, that has con­cluded, I think suc­cess­fully’, he said.

The only scheme fit­ting that de­scrip­tion was the Niri en­ter­prise that stocked 26,000 ju­ve­nile salmon in a 1,600 cu­bic me­tre tank in 2016. No fish ever came to mar­ket and last au­tumn the com­pany con­firmed the death of the en­tire stock.

Above: David San­di­son. Left: Salmon farm

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