£4.2m preda­tor nets help cut seal culling

Fish Farmer - - News -

SCOT­TISH Sea Farms has re­leased its seal culling fig­ures for the past year, which show a drop of 31 per cent on 2017, from 16 to 11. The com­pany, which has 45 salmon farms around Scot­land’s west coast and is­lands, has in­stalled Sea Pro anti-preda­tor net­ting, sup­plied by W&J Knox, at 21 of its farms at a cost of £4.2 mil­lion. It said it had plans to equip a fur­ther nine farms – specif­i­cally those fac­ing a seal chal­lenge – in 2019 and 2020 at the start of each new crop cy­cle. At the com­pany’s seven farms in Orkney, where the new pro­tec­tive Sap­phire Seal Pro nets were first tri­alled in 2016 be­fore be­ing rolled-out, there have been no seal culls in al­most three years. Seal culling is the last re­sort op­tion taken by farm­ers to pro­tect the salmon in their care and is car­ried out un­der li­cence only when seals per­sist beyond all other pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures. Leg­is­la­tion soon to be en­forced by the US will ban the im­port of any seafood that has been pro­duced in con­tra­ven­tion of strict rules on an­i­mal wel­fare, which pro­hibits the shoot­ing of seals.This rul­ing has the po­ten­tial to end lu­cra­tive salmon ex­ports to North Amer­ica from farm­ers still culling preda­tors. Scot­tish Sea Farms’ head of fish health Ralph Bick­erdike said:‘Our pri­or­ity has been to in­stall Seal Pro nets at those farms with a his­toric seal chal­lenge. ‘The speed with which we can do this, how­ever, is dic­tated in large part by na­ture as there are limited op­por­tu­ni­ties in the grow­ing cy­cle where we can in­stall the new nets with­out risk­ing stress to our salmon.The ideal time is ahead of each new crop. ‘On oc­ca­sion, we have in­stalled Seal Pro net­ting at one farm only to see seals re­lo­cate to an­other farm where there had been no prior seal chal­lenge. ‘This, we be­lieve, ac­counted for five of the 11 seals culled in the last re­port­ing pe­riod and is fur­ther rea­son why we will con­tinue to roll-out the new net­ting un­til each and ev­ery farm is pro­tected.’ Now be­ing widely adopted across the sec­tor, pro­tec­tive net­ting, along with the use of acous­tic de­ter­rent de­vices, has con­trib­uted to an 81 per cent drop in the num­ber of seals culled by salmon farm­ers since 2011. Un­like tra­di­tional ny­lon nets, which are treated with a cop­per based anti-foulant to pro­tect against marine growth, Seal Pro nets re­quire no such treat­ment. En­gi­neered from high den­sity poly­eth­yl­ene, they have a stronger frame that can with­stand reg­u­lar clean­ing in-situ. Jim Gal­lagher, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Scot­tish Sea Farms, said:‘It’s has been a long-stand­ing goal of ours to use zero cop­per on our nets, tak­ing us beyond SEPA com­pli­ance, and the con­tin­ued roll-out of Seal Pro net­ting takes us a step closer to achiev­ing that goal.’

Above: The seal culling tar­get for salmon farm­ers is zero

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