Salmon farms ‘a severe risk’ to the environment
THE mass expansion of Scotland’s salmon farming industry is unsustainable and could cause ‘irrecoverable damage’ to the environment, according to a report.
A paper by a Holyrood committee has raised serious concerns about the continued growth of Scotland’s single biggest food export, worth £600million a year.
It has sparked calls for the brakes to be slammed on the expansion of the industry, which is facing a killer disease crisis.
The report into the environmental impact of salmon farming has been published by Holyrood’s environment committee, as part of a wider inquiry into the state of the industry.
Production in the aquaculture industry is expected to increase from 163,000 tons in 2016 to up to 400,000 tons by 2030.
The report states: ‘Scotland is at a critical point in considering how salmon farming develops in a sustainable way. The planned expansion of the industry over the next 10-15 years will place huge pressures on the environment.
‘Industry growth targets of 300,000-400,000 tons by 2030 do not take into account the capacity of the environment to farm that quantity of salmon.
‘If the current issues are not addressed, this expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage.’
Salmon is Scotland’s single biggest food export. Last year, £600million of salmon was exported – up 35 per cent on the previous year. It is estimated to provide nearly 2,500 jobs, with thousands more supported by the aquaculture sector in rural and coastal communities.
But growing concerns have been raised about the long-term viability of the growth amid fears that high mortality rates linked to a ‘crisis’ caused by sea lice will hit output and bring rising costs for producers.
The environment committee report raises worries that the expansion of the farmed salmon industry may cause a further increase in the spread of sea lice, which can make them more susceptible to disease and infection.
The committee report suggests that further research is needed to assess what impact sea lice could have on future salmon stocks.
Environment committee convener Graeme Dey said: ‘The sector has ambitious expansion targets but the committee is concerned as to how these can be achieved in an environmentally-sustainable way.
‘The sector continues to grow and expand with little meaningful thought given to the impact this will have on the environment.’
Don Staniford, of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, claimed that scientific research has previously indicated toxins could have an impact on human health.
He said: ‘This damning report from the Scottish parliament lays bare the salmon farming industry’s problems with infectious diseases, lice infestations, mass mortalities and chemical wastes.
‘Scottish salmon farming is a toxic industry dependent upon a cocktail of hazardous and dangerous chemicals including known lobster-killers.
‘And from a human health perspective, farmed salmon has been shown by peer-reviewed science to contain cancer-causing contaminants such as DDT, dioxins and PCBs.’
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said: ‘We recognise that marine conditions are bringing new challenges to those that faced the industry’s forerunners.
‘The sector spends around £10million per year in research and over £50million in new equipment to understand and manage environmental problems.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We welcome the parliament’s inquiry into this sector, which contributes £2billion annually to the Scottish economy.’
‘Scotland is at a critical point’
Waste: Tons of salmon are dumped into a lorry at Loch Erisort on Lewis to be transported hundred of miles for incineration