Salmon farms ‘a se­vere risk’ to the en­vi­ron­ment

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Michael Black­ley Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

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

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