SSPO comments on the launch of SEPA’s Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and revised regulatory regime

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has welcomed the launch of SEPA’s Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and revised regulatory regime, describing it as “rigorous” but “enabling”.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, SSPO chief executive, said:

“This is a rigorous report setting out modern regulation and enabling the industry to grow sustainably over the long term. It is the culmination of years of collaborative work between the Scottish salmon farmers and SEPA to develop a new framework for the gradual and careful expansion of the Scottish salmon sector.

“We share SEPA’s vision of an innovative, sustainable salmon industry underpinned by clear and accurate regulation. This report will remove many of the barriers preventing the development of more modern facilities further from the shore and we look forward to SEPA’s support as the industry makes this change.

“The various recommendations in the SEPA plan indicate how important up-to-date science is for both the development of salmon farming and its monitoring and regulation. New technology, better science and modelling and a dedicated resource to work with salmon farmers will help to ensure a robust and well-regulated industry with a strong environmental performance record and recognised provenance.

“We welcome the launch of the new model which will be used to understand the potential environmental footprint of our farms. The model will move away from current limitations and help regulate farm activity in a more modern and accurate way. The new regulatory framework supports the development of larger farms and may mean that some farms are best moved to more appropriate locations.

“SSPO has been helping to lead the research work to develop and support the new model and we have embarked on the next phase of the model’s development (project called EXPAND). Ensuring that models are maintained and developed continuously is vital for long-term benefit and, as is the case in other sectors, the industry will undertake the financing of that work.

“The research into the impacts of marine cage farming is an important study and we welcome SEPA’s decision to refer their findings to the UK Technical Advisory Group to make recommendations on new environmental standards for one of the medicines used in salmon farming (emamectin benzoate).

“The discovery of residues is important information but it should be remembered that salmon farmers were operating to SEPA guidelines throughout the past five years.

“The management of sea lice on farms has moved on considerably from reliance on veterinary medicines. The use of cleanerfish – like wrasse and lumpfish – which swim with the salmon to keep them clear of lice is highly effective. Other techniques using warm or fresh water are also working well. In fact, the levels of sea lice on farms is as low now as it has been for the past five years.

“However, salmon farmers need the reassurance that veterinary medicines are available should the need arise and we will be keen to study the recommendations from the UK Technical Advisory Group.

“The industry shares SEPA’s ambition to make Scottish salmon farming a world-leader in innovation and environmental protection. With the new, more accurate and responsive modelling the industry’s compliance rates will improve.”

“We look forward to contributing the consultation.”