THE Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has defended the industry’s health record following the latest propaganda campaign by anti-salmon farm activists.
Video footage and photographs of unhealthy salmon have been taken out of context, said Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the SSPO.
‘The video footage and images circulated in the media recently are horrible to watch. I can completely understand why people would be disturbed by them. I am, too,’ she said in a statement issued by the SSPO this afternoon.
‘But there is a problem here with using isolated footage and creating an assertion which lacks context and scientific veracity about the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks.’
The images were released by Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), which claims wild salmon in the Blackwater River on Lewis have been infected by sea lice from nearby salmon farms.
Film footage and photographs have also been sent to news organisations in the past few days by activists who broke into farms sites.
‘Lice occur naturally in places like river mouths, where there is low water flow and a lot of returning wild fish,’ said Hesketh-Laird.
‘This year, in particular, the warm weather has increased water temperatures, exacerbating the lice problem for wild fish, just as for farmed fish.
‘Sea lice are not a new problem. There have been naturally occurring sea lice on salmon since there were salmon – wild and farmed.
‘Rising water temperatures make that problem more complex to manage, but we are managing it and we see, from our published farm-by-farm data on the incidence of lice, that the levels of lice on farmed salmon are in decline. In fact, they are at the lowest level for five years.’
The SSPO began publishing monthly sea lice data from individual farms earlier this year.
‘The salmon farming industry continues to invest huge amounts of money into scientific research and expert veterinary help,’ said Hesketh-Laird.
‘Employing veterinary medicines, equipment like ‘lice skirts’ and cleaner fish are all playing a part in managing sea lice on farms.
‘Mortality of farmed fish is generally not related to sea lice. Gill disease related to the warmer seas is the root cause of the current mortality trend.’
‘The men and women who work in the salmon farming industry take great pride in their job to raise healthy fish and make a positive contribution to their local economies and communities; just as those who work in the angling sector are proud of their heritage and contribution to the tourist trade.
‘Both sectors deserve to be protected and supported and the farming sector is keen to see greater collaborative working between them. There is scope on both sides to do better at making that happen.
‘Scrutiny of industries, where legal, is perfectly legitimate and we recognise the importance of maintaining high standards,’ said Hesketh-Laird.