The Truth Will Out – Seal Killers To Be Unmasked

 A major blow against the secrecy that protects fish farmers from disclosing the truth about seal killings, has been struck today as The Scottish Information Commissioner ordered that information about seal killings, conducted under licence in Scotland, must be revealed. Previously, the Scottish Government had ensured that the information was kept from the public, but in a landmark rulings two appeals made by GAAIA, were up held. 

OHAFF welcomes the decision which will enable a light to be shone into currently hidden corners of an industry that too often trades on its so-called sustainability, but which in reality shoots seals, pollutes the oceans and undermines wild salmon and sea trout populations with sea lice infestations. 

The Scottish Information Commissioner issued the following statement:

Decisions published and press statement on website re Decisions 102/2015 & 103/2015
Press statement

7 July 2015

The Commissioner has today (7 July 2015) issued two decisions on appeals made by the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) against the Scottish Ministers. Both relate to information about the shooting of seals under licence, similar information to that requested by GAAIA in 2012.

The cases find that information about seal killings should be disclosed. The Ministers argued it should not be disclosed because it would substantially prejudice public safety and, in particular, the safety of fish farm staff workers and their families. In considering the appeals, the Commissioner was required to consider whether the disclosure of information about seal shooting would, in itself, directly result in the harm claimed by Ministers, not whether seal campaigners are likely to protest at salmon farms and fisheries.

In both cases, the Commissioner asked Ministers to explain in detail the level of harm they anticipated would follow disclosure of the information, including consulting with the salmon farming industry.

In her earlier Decision (193/2012) on a GAAIA appeal, the Commissioner ordered the Ministers to disclose information about the numbers of seals killed at salmon farms. She acknowledged Ministers’ concerns about threats by seal campaigners to the health and safety of fish farm staff and their families. But she concluded there was insufficient evidence from Ministers that the act of disclosing the requested information would increase the likelihood of threats being made or acted on.

Decision 102/2015 Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture and the Scottish Ministers

The Decision considers two issues: information about the killing of seals at fish farms during 2014 and correspondence on the provision of seal killing statistics:

Information about seal killings

Ministers provided evidence and submissions about elevated levels of threat to salmon fisheries staff and their families they claimed would be the result of disclosing the information. The issues considered are set out in detail in the Decision Notice.

The Commissioner concluded there was insufficient evidence from Ministers of an increased threat to public safety if the information about seal shootings at salmon farms carried out under licence was disclosed. The Commissioner ordered the information be disclosed.

Correspondence about the provision of seal killing statistics

The Commissioner accepted that Ministers do not hold correspondence between the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, Marine Harvest and any other salmon farming companies about threats to refuse to provide information about the number of seals killed in 2013 and 2014.

Decision 103/2015 Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture and the Scottish Ministers

This Decision considers a request for seal killing return forms from salmon farms for 2013 and 2014.

Again, the Ministers provided evidence and submissions to the Commissioner. The Commissioner notes, in particular, that one seal campaign organisation intends to launch a seal defence campaign in 2015 and this is already public. The Commissioner is, again, not satisfied that Ministers have demonstrated that the disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to prejudice substantially public safety.

Regards

Julie Frew
Freedom of Information Officer

___________________________________________

The Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner

Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road,

St Andrews, KY16 9DS

OHAFF calls for immediate moratorium on new fish farm developments

Outer Hebrides Against Fish Farms Press Release 5th June 2015 –

For Immediate Use – No Embargo

OHAFF calls for an immediate moratorium on new fish farm developments and expansions in the waters of the Outer Hebrides

– Damning new figures tell the truth about an unsustainable and damaging industry as fish farm companies leave the industry’s own sustainability initiative

Following the revelation of new damning statistics on fish mortality and sea lice infestations at Scottish fish farms, OHAFF is calling for an immediate moratorium on new fish farm development and expansion in the waters of the Outer Hebrides. Figures released by industry body, Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), show that fish mortality rates at fish farms operated by Marine Harvest more than doubled in the year 2013-2014, from 6.4% to 14.4%.

The farms operated by Grieg Seafood showed increases from 9.8% to 11.6% in the same period. Sealice infestations at farms operated in Scotland by Marine Harvest peaked at more than three times the permitted sea lice limit in the first half of 2014, to approaching almost double the limit the second half of the year. In both cases the 2014 figures peaked at over seven times the figures for 2013. In all but one month in the first half of 2014, Grieg Seafoods exceeded the permissible infestation limits, with dramatic increases in the second half of the year reaching over four times the permitted limit of sea lice per fish in September 2014.

The stats presented by GSI also reveal that, mysteriously, four major fish farm companies – including Scottish Salmon Company and Scottish Sea Farms – have left the sustainability project and have not provided the project with their data. OHAFF ask Why? Why are these companies leaving the industry organisation that reports on environmental sustainability?

OHAFF spokesperson, Peter Urpeth, stated: “These figures provide a damning insight into what is really happening in Scotland’s fish farms, and much of the real extent of these problems goes unreported as the fish farmers are permitted to operate behind a veil of secrecy. But what cannot be denied or hidden is the fact that Scotland’s wild salmon and the pristine marine environments that fish farmers love to flaunt in their glossy adverts – are suffering as a consequence of these failures, and enough is enough.

“This industry clearly cannot adequately control infestations and other causes of fish mortality, and it is clearly highly irresponsible for local planning authorities to consider or permit further expansion of this industry when it clearly cannot deliver sustainable limits of fish mortality, disease and infestation. Its methods are simply not working. Fish farm companies make assertions about the efficiency of their management processes every time they submit a planning proposal for a new development or expansion of existing sites.

“These and so many sets of figures before them, show that fish farmers simply cannot adequately manage key environmental and fish welfare issues, and the situation is clearly getting worse. “It is time to call a halt to this environmental madness, to stop further development and ensure that fish farming becomes a transparent industry that is fully, adequately and independently monitored, and that failures to comply with the standards expected are punished in law. That is the only responsible position.”

Ends.

300,00 Salmon deaths – a damning Indictment of salmonid aquaculture

Damning indictment of an unnatural and inhumane aquaculture –

Salmon farmers Loch Duart Salmon have confirmed in news reports that 300,000 young salmon have been killed by jellyfish in an attack in North Uist, and other fish weakened in the attack later died due to exhaustion and the impact of poor weather conditions. The fish died as they were trapped in the fish farm’s nets at the company’s fish farm in Lochmaddy.

OHAFF issues the following statement:

“This tragic incident highlights everything that is inhumane and wrong with salmonid aquaculture. That so many young fish have died a panicked and painful death either directly due to jellyfish stings or through exhaustion as a consequence of the attack, is a damning indictment of the industry, and why so many people concerned for animal welfare want the unnatural and forced containment of a migratory and iconic fish species to cease.

“Farmed salmon are a sitting target for swarms of sealice and jellyfish; they are a prone to mass outbreaks of disease and the industry is polluting our seas and threatening wild fish stocks. Sealice are showing growing resistance to chemical treatments and in recent years fish farmers have reported huge mortalities to disease. This has to stop, and OHAFF urges anyone with a concern for animal welfare to stop buying farmed salmon for Christmas and forever.”

Marine Harvest apply for new fish farm in Loch Erisort

Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd have lodged a planning application for a new fish farm in Loch Erisort, Isle of Lewis.

This campaign will be lodging a formal objection to this plan by the deadline, 4th September.

Full details are at:

http://planning.cne-siar.gov.uk/PublicAccess/centralDistribution.do?caseType=Application&keyVal=N920FNRO03100

You can lodge your own objection via that website, or e-mail us, details above, if you would like to be included in this campaign’s objection.

Salmon & Trout Association call for fish farm closures…

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Salmon & Trout Association press release….

Salmon & Trout Association, 18 August 2014
Catastrophe of salmon farm ‘sea-lice soup’ hits juvenile salmon and sea-trout across huge area of the west coast and western isles

S&TA(S) congratulates local council for principled planning decisions to safeguard wild salmon and sea-trout but castigates Minister for allowing wild salmon catastrophe to continue on his watch
At the worst possible time of year for wild fish, yet again industry figures show sea-lice have been out of control at many Scottish salmon farms. The latest aggregated sea lice data, published by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) (Note 1), shows that in the second quarter of 2014, sea lice numbers on farmed salmon were still out of control in almost half the thirty regions for which data is reported by the industry.

The second quarter of every year is when the main migrations to sea of juvenile wild salmon and sea-trout occur. During this period, wild salmon and sea-trout are at their most vulnerable to damaging and often fatal infestations of sea lice emanating from fish farms (Note 2).

Particular hotspots, for the sixth quarterly report in a row, include ‘Kennart to Gruinard’ in Wester Ross where there are seven farms operated by two companies, Wester Ross Fisheries Limited and Scottish Sea Farms Limited.

Collectively, the farms in this region breached industry sea-lice standards and will have been producing juvenile sea-lice in numbers that will in all probability have threatened the survival of any migrating young wild salmon and sea-trout leaving the rivers of Wester Ross for the first time this spring. This will almost certainly have included wild salmon from the Special Area for Conservation on the Little Gruinard River, where Atlantic salmon are supposedly strictly protected under European law

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA (Scotland) Aquaculture Campaign, said:

“Sea-lice have been over the threshold in this part of Wester Ross for 18 straight months now. Despite extended fallow periods applied in Wester Ross and twelve treatments for sea-lice in the three months of April to June 2014, the industry here still cannot get its sea-lice problem under control. Clearly the use of wrasse as ‘cleaner fish’ in this region is not the panacea that it is often said to be.”
Mr Linley-Adams continued:

“We now have 18 months of evidence which shows that either the fish-farmers in Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom can’t or won’t manage their farms properly to control sea-lice or that some characteristic of Wester Ross simply makes it an inappropriate place to farm salmon.

Either way, the fish-farms in Two Brooms must now go.

This is now a litmus test of the attitude of the Scottish Government to wild salmon and sea-trout on the west coast. Is it lawful for Ministers to do nothing to protect populations of west coast wild salmon and sea-trout in Two Brooms for the benefit of the fish-farmers?”

Other regions that continue to have sea-lice issues include Inchard to Kirkaig North, Loch Long and Croe, Skye and small isles (North), Awe and Nell (Argyll), Add and Ormsary (also Argyll), Mull, Lewis, North Uist, South Uist and Shetland East with sea lice levels up to ten times over the thresholds for treatment, threatening migrating wild salmon and sea-trout with lethal infestation.

Highland Council congratulated for decisions showing local concerns for wild salmon and sea-trout

In stark contrast to the Minister’s lack of action, the Highland Council appears now to be standing up for wild salmon and sea-trout on behalf of the local communities it represents and which care passionately about their wild fish.

Refusing planning permission this August for a massive 10-cage salmon farm in Loch Slapin on the Isle of Skye, the Highland Council concluded that “it is the sea-lice impacts on wild salmonids in particular, given the historical problems in this loch system, which is of main concern” describing the likely effect on wild fish populations as “unacceptable” (Note 3).

Also in August, the Highland Council defended a 10 year time-limit placed on an existing salmon farm in Loch Torridon and refused the fish-farmers’ application for permanent planning permission, stating that since the farm was first given permission “nothing substantive has changed to lessen sea-lice impacts on wild salmonids” and that “high sea lice levels present at a time when peak values would not be expected is of concern regarding their potential impact on wild salmonids” (Note 4).

Shamefully, Marine Scotland did not object to either application and appears to be ignoring the advice of its own fisheries scientists at Marine Scotland Science, who have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that “scientific evidence from Norway and Ireland indicates a detrimental effect of sea-lice on sea trout and salmon populations” (Note 5). There is, of course, no evidence that Scottish wild fish are somehow less susceptible than their Norwegian or Irish relatives or that Scottish sea-lice are less of a threat.

Hugh Campbell Adamson, Chairman of the Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)), said:

“The S&TA is delighted to see local authorities taking on their responsibilities for the sea-lice issue at last. We applaud the Highland Council for grasping the issue.
Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom have a similar track record of appalling fish-farm sea-lice problems as Loch Slapin, so the question is will the Minister follow the Highland Council’s lead and direct the closure of the Two Brooms fish-farms?

If those farms applied to the Council for planning permission now, it seems highly likely that they would not be granted that permission. The fish-farmers have had ample time to show they can control sea-lice, but the parasites are still rampant on the Two Brooms farms.

It is simply not credible for the Minister to reply that he is still ‘keeping the situation under review’ or offer some such other platitude. He must now act and close the Two Brooms farms.”

Why are sea lice from fish-farms such a threat to wild salmonids?

The negative impact of sea lice, produced in huge numbers by fish farms, on wild salmonids (salmon and sea trout) is widely accepted by fisheries scientists including the Scottish Government’s own Marine Scotland Science (see Note 5).

Most recently, a new paper published in 2013 by a group of fisheries experts from Norway, Canada and Scotland re-analyses data from various Irish studies and shows that the impact of sea lice on wild salmon causes a very high loss (34%) of those returning to Irish rivers (see Note 6).

Most importantly, there is clear evidence that both wild salmon and sea trout are in decline in Scotland’s ‘aquaculture zone’, whereas, generally, populations have been relatively stable on the east and north coasts where there is no fish-farming (see Note 7).

ENDS

1) http://scottishsalmon.co.uk/category/science-behind-fish-farming/fish-health/