SSPO Response to BBC Panorama’s ‘Salmon Farming Exposed’

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) fully cooperated with the BBC Panorama team, including giving them access to the SSPO’s chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird. During those discussions and subsequent filmed interview, no specific allegations in respect to any SSPO member companywere made. Publicity by the BBC around the Panorama broadcast appears to sensationalise the operations of a farming sector raising live animals day to day in natural surroundings and the routine dealings with the environmental regulator that all farmers, regardless of stock, are subject to.

Responding to the BBC’s press release ahead of the broadcast the chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “Scottish salmon farmers are strictly monitored and regulated. Though building trust in the regulatory regime is important, Scottish salmon farmers consistently strive to go beyond compliance and we are supportive of regular inspections and scrutiny; it’s how we improve as a sector. Scottish laws governing aquaculture are some of the strongest in the world and we welcome that – we want customers to be confident in farm reared salmon.”

The SSPO and our members are committed to good environmental performance. It is in everyone’s interest to maintain a high-quality environment in which fish are raised. The sector is committed to quickly addressing issues where they do occasionally arise and in 2017 had an average compliance of 81%.

The Scottish salmon farming sector is subject to over 1,000 audits and regulatory inspections every year. All Scottish salmon farmers adhere to the sector’s 500 point Code of Good Practice which goes beyond regulatory compliance and publish monthly figures on issues of fish health and survivability. This is in addition to a range of third party visits from customers and independent accreditation schemes.

The health and welfare of farmed fish is paramount to Scottish Salmon farmers who are investing heavily in a strategy of prevention over cure. Medicinal use in salmon farming has fallen by 49% in the last decade as spending on innovation, natural preventative measures and alternative treatments have grown dramatically. However, as in all farming sectors, medicines are used from time to time. Withdrawing all access to medicines is not the best way to ensure the highest standards of fish health and welfare. It is important that salmon farmers retain the ability to treat fish medicinally if required.

Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “Medicine use in all farming, is tightly regulated by the authorities and in our case by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. We expectall our companies to adhere to the tight rules that are put in place. The industry has a great record on medicines and the significant decline in use over the last 10 years resulting from the industry’s strategy of prevention over cure has really paid dividends.”

We welcome SEPA’s support to grow the Scottish salmon farming sector sustainably over the long term and their initial proposals for a new regulatory package. Strong and enabling regulations not only offer customers confidence, they also offer the sector clear and unambiguous rules that support sustainable growth. The SSPO and salmon farming sector have been pressing for regulatory change for many years and we welcome the long-awaited new model from SEPA that should remove some of the barriers to farms being sited in more exposed, deeper waters.

The target to double the economic value of salmon farming to Scotland by 2030 can only be achieved through steady, sustainable growth within a strong regulatory framework. SEPA’s proposals pave the way for the gradual and careful expansion of the Scottish salmon farming sector and should help maintain the excellent standards set by the many existing high performing farms.