Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson plans to collect data on lice levels on farms. (Photo: scotland.gov.uk/Stock File/FIS)
Fish farms could face stricter limitations in Scotland
Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 03:10 (GMT + 9)
Aquaculture could be banned in some of Scotland’s coastal areas to protect wild fish from parasites originating from fish farms. Anglers and landowners believe the parasites are at least partly causing the declines in wild salmon and sea trout.
The aquaculture industry responded that no evidence supports this claim.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said new legislation planned for later this year might ban farms from areas that are important to wild stocks.
"But we have to have the consultation, we have to understand in the environment we have in Scotland what the effects of different options would be," he clarified, BBC Scotland reports.
Stevenson is considering forcing salmon farmers to release data on lice levels on specific farms, he said -- a move urged for by critics of the industry and implemented by the Norwegian government.
In contrast, Steve Bracken from Marine Harvest, said producers should not get kicked out of existing farming areas.
"We can't say that we're not having an impact. It's just knowing how much of an impact we've got," he said.
"And that's why I think it would be wrong to say 'well, we don't know, we don't really like this but we think you should go out of the loch'. We don't think that's a reason for moving," he added.
The BBC Scotland Investigates: Scotland's Fishy Secrets programme also looked at whether lice have become resistant to the chemicals used to treat them, and found that the industry may be concealing the extent of problems faced in treating the parasites.
Through a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish government, BBC discovered notes of discussions between the drug companies manufacturing the treatments and government officials.
"The view from the [fish farming] industry was that there is a clear evidence of lack of efficacy and that some fish farms have even been closed as a result of sea lice infestation. However, fish farms are reluctant to report these officially," a government official wrote in the documents.
The Scottish Salmon Producer's Organisation (SSPO), which represents salmon farms in Scotland, said the industry was not hiding information from regulatory authorities.
"We're regulated by the environmental protection agency, SEPA,” said Scott Lansburgh, chief executive. "So they keep a close eye on what's going on in the industry as do the fish health inspectorate and their reports are open to all to see and we're regularly reported on and we're regularly inspected so we're not hiding anything."
The wild fish lobby warned that any resistance could have dire implications.
"If we're getting resistant sea lice we need to know where the populations of those resistant sea lice are,” asserted Guy Linley Adams, a lawyer working for the Salmon and Trout Association. "If it does spread we get multiple resistance in sea lice across the west coast of Scotland and in the isles then you've got this awful scenario of farms with huge lice burdens causing problems not just for the farmers but for the wild fish as well."
- Fish farm inspections show improper management: salmon group
By Natalia Real