Scottish salmon farm industry supplying UK supermarkets from regions where rampant sea lice numbers pose major threat to the survival of wild salmon and sea trout.
In the run up to Christmas, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) is challenging two major supermarkets to live up to their claims of ‘environmental responsibility’ and stop putting Scottish farmed salmon on their shelves from regions in the west Highlands and Islands where sea lice infestation is still rampant, putting wild salmon and sea trout populations at severe risk.
The Co-Op and Sainsbury’s have been selling farmed salmon from fish farms within regions of Scotland where sea lice numbers have been recorded well over both industry criteria and new Government trigger levels – levels which, fisheries scientists agree, threaten huge harm to wild salmon and sea trout survival.
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:
“By purchasing farmed salmon from regions where sea lice parasite numbers on farmed fish are so high, both Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op are failing to live up to their mantras of responsible sourcing. These supermarkets should now use their commercial clout in line with their declared environmental policies and issue ultimatums that they will cease buying any more fish from farms in badly lice-hit regions. Without such commercial pressure the salmon farmers will continue to operate with sea lice levels that will inevitably cause massive damage to wild fish, killing juvenile wild salmon and sea trout as they go to sea for the first time.”
According to the latest data published by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation’s (SSPO), the worst regions (see note 2) for sea lice control from July to September included:
- Loch Long and Croe, from where Marine Harvest salmon has been ‘responsibly sourced’ onto Sainsbury’s shelves this autumn;
- Loch Fyne, from where The Scottish Salmon Company has been supplying Co-Op supermarkets this autumn;
- the west of the Isle of Lewis, from where The Scottish Salmon Company has been supplying the Co-Op this autumn; and
- Harris, from where Marine Harvest has been supplying Sainsbury’s this autumn.
Sainsbury’s and Marine Harvest (see notes)
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, explained:
“As part of our campaign to highlight the threat to wild salmon and sea trout from the huge numbers of parasites breeding on Scottish fish-farms, we asked Sainsbury’s in 2014 to examine critically their suppliers’ record and reconsider whether they should continue to sell farmed salmon from companies that operate fish-farms in regions of Scotland that have failed to achieve proper control of sea lice.
We received all manner of reassurances from Sainsbury’s in 2014 and 2015, but their supplier’s farms are still causing serious concern. Sainsbury’s keeps promising ‘solutions tomorrow’, but we believe it is now time for Sainsbury’s to bite the bullet and refuse to buy Scottish farmed salmon from farms in badly lice-hit regions. That really would constitute ‘responsible sourcing’.”
Co-Operative and The Scottish Salmon Company (see notes)
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, noted:
“The Co-Op prides itself on its green and environmentally responsible approach to buying fish. Such an approach is severely undermined by selling farmed salmon from Loch Roag where in September average adult female sea lice numbers reached a staggering average of 8.46 per farmed fish (more than eight times the industry’s threshold level for treatment).
At the head of this sea loch is the Langavat Special Area of Conservation – the jewel in the crown of Western Isles’ wild Atlantic salmon populations. It is supposed to enjoy the strictest possible legal protection, but it is clearly under threat from fish-farm derived sea lice. Surely the Co-Op cannot continue to claim green credentials in sourcing farmed salmon so long as it continues to take fish from the Loch Roag farms?”
Industry-wide problems have continued in 2016
As the industry expands, sea lice are becoming increasingly difficult to control in Scotland. The hard facts, based on the quarterly data produced by the SSPO, are that:
Between July and September 2016, regions representing 52.9% of Scottish farmed salmon production were over industry criteria of one adult female louse per fish, for at least one of these three months.
Over the year to September 2016, regions representing a staggering 80.1% of the Scottish production of farmed salmon have been over industry criteria for at least one month in the last year.
Over the year to September 2016, regions representing 66.4% have been over three adult female lice per fish for at least one month, the level at which the Scottish Government now requires individual farms to produce a “site specific escalation action plan”.
Over the year to September 2016, regions representing 18.2% have been over 8 adult female lice per fish for at least one month, the level at which the Scottish Government announced in May 2016 would result in enforcement action, including the potential to require reduction in biomass.
To date, S&TCS understands that there has been no such enforcement action.
In the Loch Long and Croe region, where there are three fish farms – Alsh, Duich and Ardintoul – all operated by Marine Harvest, average adult female sea lice numbers have been over industry criteria for the entire year (12 months) to September 2016, for nine of those months over the new Government trigger of three. Despite this appalling record, Sainsbury’s was ‘responsibly sourcing’ salmon from Alsh and selling it in its branches in November 2016.
In the Isle of Lewis (West) region where there are seven fish farms – Vuiabeag, Taranaish, Kyles of Vuia, Gousam, Vacasay, Vuia Mor, Eughlam – all operated by The Scottish Salmon Company, and all lying in the path of migrating smolts leaving the Langavat Special Area of Conservation, designated under European law for the protection of wild Atlantic salmon, average adult female sea lice numbers on farmed fish in the region have been over industry criteria for last five months to September 2016, with the highest levels being recorded over the last three months than at any time since lice records were first published in 2013.
In July and August 2016, the region was over the Government trigger of three adult female lice per fish, requiring escalation plans to be drawn up, but in September the level went over eight adult female lice per fish, when enforcement action is supposed to follow from the Fish Health Inspectorate, all this despite there being 14 treatments for lice on farms in the region between July and September 2016.
Nevertheless, fish from the Isle of Lewis West was on Co-Op shelves (from the Vuia Mor farm) in November 2016, having been ‘responsibly sourced’.
In the Harris region where there are eight active fish farms – Scotasay (Marine Harvest), Soay (MH), Seaforth (MH), Trilleachan Mor (The Scottish Salmon Company), Plocrapol (TSSC), Raineach (MH), Reibinish (TSSC), Scadabay (TSSC), despite 23 separate treatments for sea lice in three months, average adult female sea lice numbers went over Scottish Government trigger levels of three adult female lice per fish in September 2016, requiring escalation plans and increased monitoring. Fish from this region has been responsibly sourced by Sainsbury’s this autumn, from some of the Marine Harvest farms.
In the Loch Fyne region where there are ten farms – Meall Mhor, Glenan Bay, Furnace Quarry, Gob a Bharra, Quarry Point, Tarbert South, Ardcastle Bay, Ardgadden, Rubha Stillaig, Strondoir – all operated by The Scottish Salmon Company, despite 34 treatments for sea lice in just three months, Loch Fyne has been over industry criteria for the five months to September 2016 and in September 2016 was only just below the Scottish Government trigger level of three adult female lice per farmed fish. Fish from Loch Fyne has been ‘responsibly sourced’ by the Co-Op this autumn from Quarry Point and Gob a Bharra.