The Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TAS) has today, 27th June, expressed disbelief at the response made by Marine Scotland Science to a planning application by the fish-farmer, Wester Ross Fisheries Ltd to install 46 steel pen fish cages at its existing fish-farm at Ardmair in Loch Kanaird.
Marine Scotland Science is the body which provides scientific and technical advice on behalf of the Scottish Government.
Marine Scotland Science’s letter of 13th June 2013 to Highland Council deals with the risks to effective sea lice management as a result of the application and comes to the conclusion that ‘strategies for dealing with sea lice are satisfactory as far as can reasonably be foreseen.’ The Marine Scotland Science letter is here, under the ‘documents’ tab.
However, evidence compiled by the S&TA(S) from Marine Scotland Science’s own records covering the period 2009 to 2013 – and listed below in an Annex attached to the S&TAS’ press release – shows the Ardmair farm has been characterised by lice levels in excess of Code of Good Practice thresholds and serious concerns over the use and efficacy of available treatments.
Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), says: ‘The evidence the S&TA(S) has gathered from Marine Scotland Science itself, under freedom of information, suggests that the strategies used by Wester Ross Fisheries Limited over the last few years at Ardmair have not been satisfactory at all – far from it. And if anything can be ‘reasonably foreseen’ at the Ardmair farm, in our view it is certainly not that sea-lice control is likely to be effective.
‘Sea lice infestations now being seen on wild sea trout in the Two Brooms area are related to the fact that the numbers of adult sea lice per fish on the hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon in the vicinity earlier this year were, in effect, out of control.
‘A reservoir of adult breeding female lice on farmed fish in farms like Ardmair will have produced many millions of juvenile sea lice to populate the local marine environment. Inevitably juvenile wild salmon and sea trout, migrating from local rivers, will have been and are being infested with devastating consequences.’
Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA Aquaculture Campaign, says: ‘For Marine Scotland Science to come out with such bland ‘identikit’ assurances, given what their own information shows, is unforgiveable.
‘We are left to wonder whether they even looked at what they had in their own files before they responded. They need to look closer at the record of the Ardmair farm and rethink their response. Simply rubber-stamping fish farm applications without taking account of all the evidence in their own possession is unacceptable.’
Annex – Marine Scotland Science sea lice records from 2009-2013
Much of this evidence is gathered from Marine Scotland Science’s own Fish Health Inspectorate inspection reports for the Ardmair farm and has been obtained by the S&TA(S) pursuant to the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. It shows the extent of the failure of Wester Ross Fisheries Limited to adequately contain the sea lice issue at its existing farm on Loch Kanaird.
- The Fish Health Inspectorate inspected Wester Ross Fisheries’ Ardmair farm on 10th November 2009 and recorded that adult female sea lice counts were above the suggested threshold in the industry’s Code of Good Practice (CoGP) for at least four weeks.
- The Fish Health Inspectorate inspected Wester Ross Fisheries’ Ardmair farm on 15th June 2010 and again reported lice levels not below the suggested threshold in the CoGP during the period that records were inspected. Treatments with Alphamax were reported as seeing better results than with Salmosan. In general, the manager reported that treatments were not as effective as in past.
- The Fish Health Inspectorate inspected Wester Ross Fisheries’ Ardmair farm a year later, on 15th June 2011, and again recorded that sea lice levels were above CoGP thresholds (of 0.5 adult female lice per salmon), with the site manager reporting this time that Alphamax treatments were not as effective as in the past.
- The Fish Health Inspectorate made a further inspection on 2nd August 2011 recorded that before an Alphamax treatment administered on 28th July, adult female lice levels were at 8.4 per fish, reducing only to 6.7 the day after the treatment, but still over the CoGP thresholds. During 2011, the farm had also treated with Slice in May and July, which does not appear to have controlled lice levels.
- The Fish Health Inspectorate inspected Wester Ross Fisheries’ Ardmair farm on 25th July 2012 and again showed that sea lice were not below suggested thresholds in the industry’s CoGP for the period for which records were inspected.
- For each of the years 2009 to 2012, complete information as to how long each lice situation persisted and how far in excess of CoGP thresholds the lice numbers were at each of these inspections, is not in the public domain, but it is held by Wester Ross Fisheries by law – this is a requirement of the Fish Farming Businesses (Record Keeping) (Scotland) Order 2008. The Scottish Government has declined to require the fish-farmers to publish this farm-specific information in full.