Pax­man: Fish farms ‘bat­tery hen sheds that f loat on wa­ter’

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Mike Mer­ritt

TV PRE­SEN­TER Jeremy Pax­man has called for an over­haul of the salmon farm­ing in­dus­try – which he likened to ‘float­ing bat­tery hen sheds’.

He said the move was nec­es­sary to pro­tect wildlife as ‘salmon farms have done enor­mous harm’.

The keen an­gler, who reg­u­larly fishes in Scot­land, said many fish­eries traded on the im­age that salmon ar­rived at the ta­ble ‘fresh from the wild seas’ when, in re­al­ity, most has been bred in cages in the sea.

There are now 250 salmon farms on the west coast of Scot­land, but this has co­in­cided with a col­lapse in the num­ber of wild salmon in the area. Fish cages are mostly sited near the shore, or in es­tu­ar­ies for easy ac­cess, but the crowded con­di­tions are said to be a breed­ing ground for sea lice, which in­fect wild fish when they be­gin mi­grat­ing a up rivers.

Al­though con­sumers are left with the im­pres­sion their salmon has been caught in wild lochs, the stock is ac­tu­ally kept in 130ft cages of around 70,000 fish, Pax­man said in an edi­to­rial for the Fi­nan­cial Times Week­end sec­tion.

‘It’s like a series of float­ing bat­tery hen sheds,’ he said.

‘Salmon has long been sold on the prospect of clean­li­ness and health. The im­pres­sion is fraud­u­lent. Salmon and trout mi­grat­ing to the sea or re­turn­ing to their nat­u­ral rivers to spawn must swim through clouds of sea lice.

‘Salmon farms have done enor­mous harm.’

By 2015, the Scot­tish salmon in­dus­try was pro­duc­ing nearly 180,000 tons and hopes to dou­ble pro­duc­tion by 2030.

But Salmon & Trout Con­ser­va­tion UK (S&TC UK) says the up­surge has come at ‘con­sid­er­able en­vi­ron­men­tal cost’, by trig­ger­ing a huge in­crease in sea lice. The prob­lem has forced many fish­eries to add chem­i­cals to hold­ing cages which are harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment, con­ser­va­tion­ists warned.

Dr Jan­ina Grey, head of science with S&TC UK, be­lieves it is time for a pos­i­tive change, say­ing: ‘The long-term goal has to be closed con­tain­ment, which bi­o­log­i­cally separates the farmed fish from wild fish and the farms from the wider en­vi­ron­ment, pre­vent­ing the spread of sea lice and other dis­eases.

‘Su­per­mar­kets are fail­ing in their en­vi­ron­men­tal obli­ga­tions by sell­ing fish from re­gions of Scot­land where sea lice are not be­ing ad­e­quately con­trolled.’

Fig­ures from the Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SSPO) re­leased in June show that in 2016-17, £14mil­lion was spent on ‘bi­o­log­i­cal’ treat­ments for salmon, mainly through cleaner fish, which eat sea lice. The pre­vi­ous year the fig­ure was £5.2mil­lion.

Spend­ing on con­tro­ver­sial ‘medic­i­nal’ treat­ments fell from £18.5mil­lion in 2015-16 to £13.8mil­lion last year.

Last year also saw £21mil­lion in­vested in the use of me­chan­i­cal meth­ods to re­move lice.

A spokesman for the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment said re­cently: ‘Scot­land has a leg­isla­tive and reg­u­la­tory frame­work which bal­ances grow­ing aqua­cul­ture sus­tain­ably and pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity and the en­vi­ron­ment on which aqua­cul­ture and wild fish­eries de­pend.’

SSPO chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Lands­burgh said: ‘It is a shame that Mr Pax­man has such a neg­a­tive view of the Scot­tish salmon farm­ing sec­tor. It is the high-qual­ity en­vi­ron­ment in which our fish are grown which makes Scot­tish salmon one of the most sought-after food prod­ucts in the world and why it is used in top-end restau­rants around the globe, so it is the sec­tor’s own in­ter­ests to en­sure our en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact is as small as it can be.

‘In­deed, in a num­ber of ar­eas around Scot­land we work with wild fish­eries groups to pro­tect river sys­tems through the shar­ing of data and reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions about how our mem­bers might be able to as­sist and we hope to an­nounce more of these kind of joint ini­tia­tives in the com­ing months.’

‘Have done enor­mous harm’

‘Work to pro­tect river sys­tems’

Dan­ger: Cages are said to be a breed­ing ground for sea lice

Keen an­gler: Jeremy Pax­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.