The major salmon farmer, Marie Harvest, has broken ranks with the rest of the industry represented by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation and is seeking Aquaculture Stewardship Council [ASC] certification.
This will mean, as Marine Harvest will be well aware, that the company will have to publish weekly sea lice data on its salmon farms.
This is a major breakthrough for what has been an unenlightened industry, with Marine Harvest the first to understand the imperative for transparent and improved practices for the long term health of the industry and for the important wild salmon and trout fisheries.
Responding to the Marine Harvest initiative, the body representing the sporting wild fish sector, the Salmon and Trout Association Scotland [S&TAS] has given the move a qualified welcome.
Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to S&TAS’s Aquaculture Campaign says: ‘In order to receive this certification, Marine Harvest will have to publish weekly, farm-specific sea lice data, individually for each of their farms.
This is what the S&TAS has called for for many years and ensures producers stand by their environmental obligations.
For this reason we do welcome Marine Harvest’s decision and hope all other fish farms will follow its lead.
Loch Ewe is perhaps the most infamous case of a fish-farm in the wrong place. The S&TAS wants to see that farm closed.’
However, this isn’t the end of the story.
Marine Harvest still have fish-farms in the wrong places – as do all fish-farmers.
They are too near to wild salmonid rivers, threatening wild fish conservation. Such farms need to be relocated.
Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TAS says: ‘Marine Harvest should be congratulated for recognising their responsibilities and finally accepting the importance of public scrutiny.
‘You now have to ask why both the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation and the Scottish Government fought so doggedly to stop this very provision being included in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill in the debate in Parliament last week.
‘Both claimed that to disclose this information would be detrimental to the commercial interests of the farms.
‘Clearly Marine Harvest see no such problem, and would expect the rest of the industry to follow.
‘This though is just a start. The environment and wild fish will continue to suffer until all production in Scotland is moved to closed containment’.
However, it has to be a very good signal to an entire industry when a major participant understands the need to move forwards towards a more sustainable and transparent aquaculture process.
This is also effectively a recognition of the strength of the case for farm-specific sea lice data that has been made so persistently and with such carefully researched information as that presented by the Salmon & Trout Association Scotland.]
This just might be the beginning of a breakthrough in the stalemate between the two farmed and wild fish sectors for which the Scottish Parliament’s RACCE committee has been calling.