The recent BBC Costing the Earth programme – Fish Farms of the Future – centred around the issue of farming salmon in tanks on land, many miles away from the sea, and how this could be the answer to the environmental impacts of traditional open net farming prevalent off the West Coast and Islands of Scotland. The programme is 30 minutes long but well worth a listen!
S&TC has been calling for closed containment farming for years. Whether in land based units or in tanks in the sea, as shown in the header photo, these units create a biological barrier between farmed and wild fish, so that sea lice cannot transfer to wild salmon and sea trout smolts and eat them alive, diseases stay in the tanks and are easier for farmers to treat, and waste products can be harvested and processed for fertiliser rather than be dumped on the sea bed.
The cost of these units is coming down very quickly and soon it will make economic sense for farmers to switch to closed containment. When that happens, supermarkets will be able to market genuinely sustainable farmed salmon products, and we will be spared the sort of inane comments uttered in the BBC programme by the representative from M&S – suffice to say we are challenging the supermarket over their totally unacceptable attitude.
The Scottish Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming and its impact on wild fish, which is the result of S&TC’s recent petition on the subject, is scheduled for early next year and we will be presenting a great deal of evidence from around the Northern Hemisphere. The move towards closed containment in other countries will form an important part of that evidence trail.
So, what seemed a pipedream just a few years ago now appears to be coming down the track rather quickly. Closed containment is indeed a reality, and when it happens, wild salmon and sea trout may once again run Scotland’s West Coast and Island rivers and lochs in the profusion that historically lured anglers from all over the globe. That will support local communities and their economies with genuine jobs for local people – something the fish farmers boast about at the moment, but research suggests that salmon farming employees have a more widespread European component to them than the ghillies, boatmen and hotel staff who used to rely on visiting anglers for their pay packet.