Campaigners give up on government, urging total ban on net salmon farming

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‘We have reached the end of the road,’ said the anti-fish farm campaign group Salmon & Trout Conservation, announcing a major policy change.

In a recent statement, the trust said: ‘In the face of continuing Scottish Government failure to introduce effective regulation of the industry, Salmon and Trout Conservation believes all open-net salmon farming in Scotland must now be brought to an end as soon as possible.

‘All open-net farms should be closed as soon as possible and the industry moved into full closed containment, where a physical and biological separation is maintained between farmed and wild fish and the wider coastal environment.’

Andrew Graham-Stewart, the director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, said: ‘We have engaged with successive Scottish Governments and regulators for over 20 years in efforts to persuade them to introduce effective regulation of salmon farming, particularly to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the devastatingly negative impacts of sea lice proliferation.

‘The response has been little more than lip-service whilst enabling the industry to expand production exponentially, exacerbating all the environmental problems associated with open-net farming.

‘The Scottish Government’s recent announcement of a two-year review of regulation, yet another delaying tactic, and its endorsement of the fundamentally inadequate Salmon Interactions Working Group’s report amount to conclusive confirmation that it has no intention of introducing meaningful reform. We have reached the end of the road.’

In the meantime, it continued: ‘…the unequivocal recommendations of the comprehensive reports of the Scottish Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming in 2018 by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and then by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, are being ignored’.

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, added: ‘Despite the overwhelming evidence that open-net salmon farming as practiced in Scotland is unsustainable, it has become ever more apparent that Scottish ministers are not minded to alter their position from one of almost total support for the industry, whatever it seeks to do.

‘The time has come to make it clear that open-net farms should be closed down as soon as is practicable. And make no mistake, the reason we feel we must make this call is due to the failure of Scottish Government to act to protect the Scottish aquatic environment and its wildlife.’

The group said that ‘other jurisdictions, for example Washington State, British Columbia and Denmark, now appreciate that open-net salmon farming is unsustainable and are reining in the industry. Argentina, mindful of what has occurred here and elsewhere, has banned open-net salmon farming from its waters.’

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Aquaculture is a significant contributor to our economy, providing well paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities and will be an essential part of our green recovery and transition to net zero. The industry also provides a source of home grown, nutritious low carbon protein that is enjoyed at home and abroad.

‘The sector must be developed in and environmentally and economically sustainably way and that is why we announced a number of priority areas for action to better protect wildlife and the marine environment in our recent response to the Salmon Interactions Working Group Report as well as other measures, including the Aquaculture Code of Practice.

‘An independent review of how fish farms are regulated is underway in a move to make Scottish aquaculture legislation one of the most effective and transparent in the world.
‘The review findings will be reported in due course.’