Sea trout near salmon farms found be infested with sea lice

RTE, 9 January 2017

Sea trout near salmon farms found be infested with sea lice

Sea lice can kill sea trout, reduce their weight and impacts their migration

Sea trout swimming close to salmon farms here and in Scotland have been found to be carrying significantly higher levels of sea lice infestation than those swimming further away from such farms.
Research carried out by scientists at Inland Fisheries Ireland and Argyll Fisheries Trust in Scotland also found sea trout swimming close to salmon farms had reduced weight.
The study saw the team of researchers examine sea lice levels of more than 20,000 sea trout from 94 rivers and lakes here and in Scotland over a period of 25 years.
The infestation levels were worse during years where rainfall was lowest. During such periods, an average sea trout caught within 10kms of a farm weighed up to 10g less than similar sized fish caught over 40kms from a farm.
Sea trout are considered to be particularly vulnerable to sea lice because they spend extended periods in waters close to coasts, where salmon farms can typically be found.
Sea lice infestation is considered bad for sea trout because it impacts negatively on the condition of their bodies, causes them to change their migration patterns and has been linked to increased death.
Between 1974 and 2014 18 Connemara fisheries reported a collapse in rod catch of seat trout over the 1989/1990 period linked to lice infestation from salmon farms.
Since then the level of sea trout rod catches has not recovered to the level it was at before the collapse.
Angling is worth €836 million to the Irish economy every year and supports upwards of 11,000 jobs.
The research was published in the international journal Aquaculture Environment Interactions.

Download the paper via:

AEI 8:597-610 (2016) – DOI:

Imminent action on £300m sea lice problem


Press Release from the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (9 January 01/09/2017

Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA)

Press Release: Policing Lice-Ridden Scottish Salmon

– New “Enforcement Regime” following £300 million losses


Dead salmon on Arran in Scotland

A new ‘Enforcement Regime’ policing lice-ridden Scottish salmon farms is to be introduced from 1 April 2017 – despite “grumbles” from the salmon farming industry.

Read more via The Herald: “Imminent action on £300m sea lice problem” (9 January 2017)

Herald 9 Jan 2017 #1


Documents obtained via FOI from the Scottish Government reveal that sea lice damage is costing Scottish salmon farming an estimated £300 million per year [1]. Whilst other countries publish site specific sea lice data, Scotland is “out of kilter” concedes a briefing to the Cabinet Secretary. “The aquaculture industry have strong concerns relating to commercial confidentiality and operational sensitivities,” stated another briefing. The salmon farming industry “remain resistant to increased legislative controls citing lack of evidence of impacts and significant commercial risks associated with offences or Enforcement Notices,” admitted another briefing.

“The fact that even the salmon farming’s biggest cheerleader, the Scottish Government, is reading the riot act is symptomatic of the industry’s escalating problems,” said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA). “The Scottish Government admit that for the last decade the industry has been riddled with reduced efficacy of sea lice treatments, amoebic gill disease and increased sea lice infestation. Instead of allowing the industry to hide from public scrutiny, the Scottish Government should publish site specific sea lice data as is already the case in Norway, Ireland and Canada. Salmon farms breaching lice limits should be named and shamed and then closed down if non-compliance continues.”

Documents obtained by GAAIA from the Scottish Government include:

“Industry are engaged in improving sea lice management but remain resistant to increased legislative controls citing lack of evidence of impacts and significant commercial risks associated with offences or Enforcement Notices,” admitted a Scottish Government private briefing paper to the Cabinet Secretary in August 2016 obtained by GAAIA via FOI.

A letter dated October 2016 from the Scottish Government’s Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen concedes that since 2007 the sector has been hit hard by “reduced efficacy of sea lice treatments, the emergence of amoebic gill disease and increased challenges associated with sea lice control, all contributing to increased sea lice numbers across the Scottish salmon farming industry.”

“Reaching the intervention limit requires the implementation of an explicit action plan, agreed with the Fish Health Inspectorate, which will reduce and maintain the average number of adult female sea lice per fish at the site below the reporting level of 3,” stated the letter. “If satisfactory measures cannot be demonstrated then enforcement action will be taken (a more detailed explanation of this policy is attached).”

Enforcement Regime  2016:



“In order for industry to implement the required procedures, the enforcement regime will take effect from 1st April 2017,” concluded the letter.

“The aquaculture industry have strong concerns relating to commercial confidentiality and operational sensitivities,” stated another Scottish Government briefing document in 2016. “If site-level reporting of sea lice levels is made public, there would be increased focus on the performance of individual sites and potential targeting of anti-fish farming lobby activities. The information could be used in order to call for the removal of sites which report high sea lice levels, putting pressure on local authorities and other regulators, and possible loss of production in the short term.”

Another briefing paper prepared for the Cabinet Secretary in July 2016 included the admission that:

“Scotland is arguably out of kilter with the other major salmon producing countries in terms of sea lice publication and the industry’s inability to manage sea lice infestation better makes it challenging to hold this line.”

For example, Norway (via Lusedata), Ireland (via the Marine Institute) and Canada (via DFO) all publish site specific sea lice data online.

The briefing paper for the Cabinet Secretary also conceded that: “Full closed containment salmon farming (on-land)….is not currently economically viable and even if it were the risk is that production would be carried out closer to markets, rather than in the Highlands and islands as now.”

In other words, the Scottish Government is protective of the lice-ridden open net cage salmon farming industry as currently practised since a move to closed containment nearer markets would jeopardise what the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation describes as “Scotland’s number one food export with a total value of £494m in 2014”.

Last week (1 January 2017), GAAIA published damning data on chemical use on Scottish salmon farms including the revelation that the use of the toxic chemicals Azamethiphos, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, Emamectin benzoate and Teflubenzuron increased ten-fold over the last decade.

Read more via:

Letter: “Sea lice ‘nature fighting back'”
BBC Farming Today on toxic Scottish salmon – listen now!
Press & Journal: “Scottish salmon farming ‘fighting a losing battle’ against sea lice”
The Times: “Toxic war on salmon lice soars 1,000%”
Press Release: Scottish Salmon’s Lethal Legacy
The Sunday Times: “Salmon industry toxins soar by 1000 per cent”

A briefing paper to Paul Wheelhouse in July 2016 admitted that:

“Resistance to available sea lice treatments is increasing in all salmon producing nations.”

“Management of sea lice on farms is the key challenge for the industry both in Scotland and in other aquaculture producing nations such as Norway and Canada,” stated the briefing paper. “If not managed satisfactorily then sea lice will limit the future expansion of the industry.”

‘Press lines’ provided to the Scottish Government’s communications team in August 2016 included:

“Scottish Government acknowledges that sea lice management presents the key challenge for the aquaculture industry. Over the last year The Scottish Government has worked cooperatively with the aquaculture industry to agree a new sea lice management policy, including a redefining of “satisfactory measures” for the prevention, reduction and control of sea lice on farms as required by the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007. This includes agreed reporting levels and increased monitoring and intervention. It also includes a backstop limit at which point enforcement action will be taken. We believe that this new policy will result in improvements to the management of sea lice by the aquaculture industry in Scotland.”

A briefing to the Cabinet Secretary in November 2017 included:

“We are aware of a large number of mortality events resulting from a combination of both sea lice and on-going gill health issues across parts of Scotland. These have been widely reported by the media recently. Loss of production, in combination with accelerated harvest, has unexpectedly and significantly decreased the stocked biomass in some reporting areas.”

“Media interest has been quiet following recent publications of the fish health management reports, however there have been several media articles relating to aquaculture mortality including in relation to the use of a Thermolicer sea lice treatment. We stand ready to respond and Comms have been made aware and provided with appropriate press lines.”

The briefing to the Cabinet Secretary also conceded:

“The new policy….includes a requirement to report sea lice levels above 3.0 average female adult lice per fish to Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate. This will initiate a site specific action plan and will require satisfactory control measures to be implemented. As an indication, at a minimum, sites in at least 8 of the reporting areas were over this level at some point in this reported quarter.”

Note that Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland reported in December 2016:

“Over the year to September 2016, regions representing 66.4% have been over three adult female lice per fish for at least one month, the level at which the Scottish Government now requires individual farms to produce a “site specific escalation action plan”.

Over the year to September 2016, regions representing 18.2% have been over 8 adult female lice per fish for at least one month, the level at which the Scottish Government announced in May 2016 would result in enforcement action, including the potential to require reduction in biomass.

To date, S&TCS understands that there has been no such enforcement action.”

Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland reported in June 2016:

“When it comes to the most serious threat to wild salmonids, sea lice produced by the billion on salmon farms, Scotland essentially relies on what are little more than gentleman’s agreements and unenforceable codes of good practice with the industry which have no status in law. In contrast, the Faroese have almost zero tolerance of any build-up of sea lice and the Norwegians accept no more than 0.5 lice per farmed fish. Yet the Scottish regime now allows up to an astonishing eight lice per farmed fish before any serious remedial action must be considered.”

A briefing paper – “Sea Lice Management and Impacts on Wild Salmonids” – authored by Marine Scotland for the Cabinet Secretary included the questionable claim that:

“No evidence yet exists on the scale of any impacts of lice on wild populations of salmon or sea trout for Scotland.”

The Scottish Government’s denial of salmon farming’s impacts is despite over two decades of scientific research linking sea lice infestation on salmon farms with declines of wild fish [2].

Notes to Editors:

[1] A submission to the Cabinet Secretary by Marine Scotland in August 2016 included:

“Recent analysis suggests that parasites account for an annual loss of up to 16.5% of the value of UK aquaculture production. The vast majority of this relates to the treatment of sea lice.”

Since Scottish aquaculture production is valued at £1.8 billion (read Scotland Food & Drink’s 2016 publication “Aquaculture Growth to 2030” online here) then annual losses due to sea lice could be nearly £300 million.

[2] Over the last few decades there has been an increasing weight of scientific evidence pointing to significant impacts of sea lice infestations from salmon farms on wild fish – including (see scientific papers listed below). A Scottish Government paper – “Summary of Science: summary of information relating to impacts of salmon lice from fish farms on wild Scottish sea trout and salmon” – includes:

MS science

Read more via the Scottish Government’s: “The interactions and effects of sea lice on wild salmon”.

The Weight of Scientific Evidence: Sea Lice & Salmon Farms

Finstad, B. (2016). Advances in understanding the impacts of sea lice on wild Atlantic salmon. NASCO, CNL (16) 46.

Shepherd, S. et al (2016). Aquaculture and environmental drivers of salmon lice infestation and body condition in sea trout. Aquaculture & Environment Interactions 8, 597-610.

Murray, A. (2016). Increased frequency and changed methods in the treatment of sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) in Scottish salmon farms 2005–2011. Pest Management Science 72 (2), 322-326.

Vollset, K. W. et al (2015). Impacts of parasites on marine survival of Atlantic salmon: a meta-analysis. Fish and Fisheries 17(3), 714-730.

Murray, A. & Hall, M. (2014). Treatment rates for sea lice of Scottish inshore marine salmon farms depend on local (sea loch) farmed salmon biomass and oceanography. Aquaculture Environment Interactions 5 (2), 117-125.

Middlemas, S.J. et al (2013). Relationship between sea lice levels on sea trout and fish farm activity in western Scotland. Fisheries Management and Ecology Volume 20, Issue 1, 68–74.

Torrissen, O. et al (2013). Salmon lice – impact on wild salmonids and salmon aquaculture. Journal of Fish Diseases 36 (3), 171-194.

Peacock, S. et al (2013). Cessation of a salmon decline with control of parasites. Ecological Applications 23 (3), 606-620.

Skilbrei, O.T. et al (2013). Impact of early salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, infestation and differences in survival and marine growth of sea-ranched Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., smolts 1997–2009. Journal of Fish Diseases 36 (3), 249-260.

Krkosek, M et al (2012). Impact of parasites on salmon recruitment in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Gargan, P. et al (2012). Evidence for sea lice-induced marine mortality of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in western Ireland from experimental releases of ranched smolts treated with emamectin benzoate. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 69, 343–353.

Middlemas, S.J. et al (2010). Temporal and spatial patterns of sea lice levels on sea trout in western Scotland in relation to fish farm production cycles. Biology Letters 6.

Penston, M.J. & Davies, I.M. (2009). An assessment of salmon farms and wild salmonids as sources of Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer) copepodids in the water column in Loch Torridon, Scotland. Journal of Fish Diseases 32 (1), 75-88.

Penston, M.J. et el (2008). Spatial and temporal distribution of Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer) larvae in a sea loch containing Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., farms on the north-west coast of Scotland. Journal of Fish Diseases 31 (5), 361-371.

Ford, J.S. & Myers, R.A. (2008). A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids. PLOS Biology.

Frazer, L.N. (2008). Sea-cage aquaculture, sea lice and declines of wild fish. Conservation Biology 23: 559-607.

Holst, J.C. (2007). Mortality of Seaward-Migrating Post-smolts of Atlantic Salmon Due to Salmon Lice Infection in Western Norwegian Salmon Stocks. In book: Salmon at the Edge by D. Mills. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK. pp.136 – 137.

Krkošek M, Ford JS, Morton A, Lele S, Myers RA, et al. (2007). Declining wild salmon populations in relation to parasites from farm salmon. Science 318: 1772–1775.

Gillibrand, P.A. & Willis, J.W. (2007). Dispersal of sea lice larvae from salmon farms: a model study of the influence of environmental conditions and larval behaviour. Aquatic Biology. 1, 63–75.

Cunningham, C. (2006). A review of research and field data on relative louse infection levels of wild salmon smolts and sea trout and the proximity of fish farms to river estuaries. Fisheries Research Services Internal Report No 12/06.

Butler, J.R.A. & Walker, A.F. (2006). Characteristics of the sea trout Salmo trutta (L.) stock collapse in the River Ewe (Wester Ross, Scotland), in 1988-2001. In: Sea Trout Biology Conservation & Management. (Graeme Harris & Nigel Milner, Eds). Proceedings of the 1st International Sea Trout Symposium, July 2005, Cardiff, Wales, 45-59.

McVicar, A. H. (2004). Management actions in relation to the controversy about salmon lice infestations in fish farms as a hazard to wild salmonid populations. Aquaculture Research 35(8): 751-758.

McKibben, M. & Hay, D. (2004). Distributions of planktonic sea lice larvae Lepeophtheirus salmonis in the inter-tidal zone in Loch Torridon, Western Scotland in relation to salmon farm production cycles. Aquaculture Research 35 (8), 742-750.

Penston, M.J. et al (2004). Observations on open-water densities of sea lice larvae in Loch Shieldaig, Western Scotland. Aquaculture 35 (8), 793-805.

Butler JRA, Watt J (2003). Assessing and managing the impacts of marine salmon farms on wild Atlantic salmon in western Scotland: identifying priority rivers for conservation. In: Mills D, editor. Salmon at the edge. Oxford: Blackwell Science. pp. 93–118.

Gargan, P.G. et al (2003). The relationship between sea lice infestation, sea lice production and sea trout survival in Ireland, 1992–2001. In Salmon at the Edge. Edited by D. Mills. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK. pp. 119–135.

Holst, J.C. et al (2003). Mortality of seaward-migrating post-smolts of Atlantic salmon due to salmon lice infection in Norwegian salmon stocks. In Salmon at the Edge. Edited by D. Mills. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK. pp. 136–137.

Butler, J.R.A. (2002). Wild salmonids and sea louse infestations on the west coast of Scotland: sources of infection and implications for the management of marine salmon farms. Pest Management Science, 595-608.

Edwards, R. (1998). Infested waters. New Scientist 2141, 4 July.

Birkeland, K. & Jacobsen, P.J. (1997). Salmon lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, infestation as a causal agent of premature return to rivers and estuaries by sea trout, Salmo trutta, juveniles. Environmental Biology of Fishes 49, 129-137.


Recipe for Ruin – SEPA Lifts Limits on Salmon Farms

01/08/2017 – Press Release – Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture

Despite escalating sea lice, infectious disease and chemical resistance problems, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is gearing up to remove biomass limits on salmon farming production across Scotland.

Read more in The Sunday Herald: “Plans to scrap fish farm limits slammed” (8 January)


In a submission to the Scottish Parliament in November 2016, SEPA admitted that the ‘Depositional Zone Regulation’ “puts responsibility for day-to-day management of sites into the hands of responsible fish farmers and ensures that at the correct locations, the regulatory framework more closely matches the growth agenda pursued by the industry by removing imposition of a limit on biomass, and enabling operators to increase biomass where environmental monitoring demonstrates that the location is able to cope” [1].

“Lifting the limits is sheer lunacy,” said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. “The salmon farming industry is already dealing with escalating sea lice infestation, chemical resistance and disease problems. Removing what few controls there are in favour of unrestricted expansion is a recipe for ruin. Salmon farms, even at current capacity, are causing widespread benthic impacts with dead zones under cages. Increasing production will effectively wipe out whole swathes of the sea-bed. This is Scotland’s very own ‘Silent Spring of the Sea’.”

In October 2016, the industry unveiled plans to double aquaculture production by 2030 (read more via “Aquaculture Growth to 2030”). Whilst Scotland is set to lift biomass limits, Norway has a strict cap on production with a maximum allowable biomass per licence of 780 tons (except in Troms and Finnmark where it is 900 tons) [2].

“Like a watchdog without bark or bite, SEPA is bending over backwards to accommodate the relentless expansion of salmon farming,” continued Staniford. “SEPA is cravenly kowtowing to the Scottish Government’s reckless plan to double aquaculture by 2030. The answer to the industry’s growing problems is blowing in the wind – decrease not increase production. Yet SEPA is deaf, blind and dumb to environmental concerns.”

In Scotland, there are many sites with a maximum biomass limit of 2,500 tonnes with an industry average of 1,159 tonnes. Even with such high biomass limits there have been significant breaches of biomass limits:

Graphs 2016-2002 Biomass Exceedances


In fact, since 2002 there have been over 858 biomass exceedances totalling 74,284 tonnes with Marine Harvest alone accounting for 24,539 tonnes of exceedances:

Graphs 2016-2002 Biomass Exceedances table of companies

Download an Excel spreadsheet of data obtained from SEPA online here

The news comes in the wake of revelations that the use of toxic chemicals on salmon farms in Scotland increased ten-fold over the last decade:

Press & Journal: “Scottish salmon farming ‘fighting a losing battle’ against sea lice”
The Times: “Toxic war on salmon lice soars 1,000%”
Press Release: Scottish Salmon’s Lethal Legacy
The Sunday Times: “Salmon industry toxins soar by 1000 per cent”

Notes to Editors:

[1] A submission by SEPA to the Scottish Parliament in November 2016 – available online here – included:

Depositional Zone Regulation submission SP Nov 2016 #1

Depositional Zone Regulation submission SP Nov 2016 #2

The Deposition Zone Regulation initiative for aquaculture was also cited in SEPA’s Annual Operating Plan 2016-2017 issued on 1 April 2016:

Depositional Zone Regulation SEPA Annual Plan 2016-2017

[2] From the Norwegian Government’s web-page “Licence Requirements in Aquaculture”:

“The maximum allowable biomass per licence is 780 tons, except in the counties of Troms and Finnmark where the maximum allowable biomass per licence is 900 tons. There are also biomass limitations on the individual production sites. The biomass limitation varies from site to site and is determined by the carrying capacity of the site.”

U.S. zero tolerance on seal shooting

Stornoway Gazette, 15 October 2016

U.S. zero tolerance on seal shooting

Melinda Gillen


Protecting wildlife and the environment whilst encouraging industry is finely balanced in the Western Isles and in recent years there have been concerns about protected zones in Hebridean waters having an impact on industry.

The push and pull between business and protection has more recently grabbed headlines when campaigners against the shooting of seals to protect fish-farms highlighted a new U.S law on imports, which could have the potential to damage the Scottish fish farming industry.

A new legislative rule will prohibit the import of any fish that doesn’t meet U.S. standards and it is illegal to intentionally kill or injure seals in any commercial U.S. fishing operation.

The new rule comes into force on January 1st, however there is to be a five-year period where regions will have a chance to comply.

Official figures reveal that fish farming companies shot 23 seals under licence from the Scottish Government in the first three months of 2016.

Talking about the issue Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: ““Fish farming is one of the most important sectors for the Western Isles economy, providing hundreds of jobs across the isles.

“It should be noted that in 2011 the Scottish Government put an end to the unregulated shooting of seals by introducing a seal licensing system in Scotland.

“This authorised the shooting of seals only as a last resort to prevent serious damage to a fishery or fish farm. Having a license is not necessary and some fish farms choose to rely only on non-lethal deterrents instead.”

He added: “It is up to the companies exporting goods to other countries to make sure they satisfy those countries’ import laws.”

However campaigners have an opposing view of the U.S regulations and say they are attached to a region rather than any individual company, so that if a seal is shot anywhere in Scotland, then the import ban would apply to the whole industry.

John F. Robins, Secretary of the Save Our Seals Fund (SOSF) said: “The Scottish Government appears to be very confused over the issue and is currently under the mistaken belief that it does not have to take any action and can leave it to individual salmon farmers to decide whether or not to continue killing seals.

“They simply do not realise that if they fail to make shooting seals a criminal offence American customs officers will not let as much as a Scottish-caught pickled herring cross their border. Salmon farmers will lose well over £200m a year in exports.”

It remains to be seen who is right when it comes to the interpretation of the new rule, but certainly some fish farming companies are taking some positive steps forward in seal control. With one local company, Loch Duart, highlighting their commitment to non-lethal methods.

A spokesman for the company said this week: “Loch Duart has a positive story to tell about new investment in non-lethal methods of predator control.

“The company deploys ‘full pen’ predator nets in any site where strength of tide and currents allow, in our move towards non-lethal solutions. We have also achieved considerable success with acoustic deterrents in the Sound of Harris.”

Since the Government put an end to unregulated shooting there has been a 65 per cent reduction in seals being shot between 2011 and 2015, perhaps in future this new U.S import rule will encourage those figures down to zero.

Tasmanian seal farmer detains seals

The Australian, 24 October 2016

Detention centres the Tasmanian solution for seals

Diver Brad Woolley, with tender Ellis Whitfield, prepares to inspect new seal-resistant pens at a Huon Aquaculture salmon farm in southern Tasmania. Picture: Rob Blakers

· Matthew Denholm
Tasmania correspondent

A sudden explosion in the ­number of seals breaking into Tasmania’s salmon farms has prompted a radical solution — seal detention.

The number of fur seals needing to be relocated from Tassal Ltd fish farms in the state had “gone crazy” since the start of June this year, multiple industry sources told The Australian.

The exact number is being kept secret by the state government and Tassal, the nation’s largest salmon producer, but the sources said it had been many hundreds of animals since June 1, and probably double the 230 that were relocated away from all fish farms last year.

The Australian can also reveal the scale of the problem has prompted Tassal to apply for permits to detain groups of seals in holding pens for days at a time.

This would allow larger groups of seals to be transported, reducing the required number of trips, generally hundreds of kilometres from southern fish farms to re­location sites on the state’s north coast.

However, the plan will raise significant animal welfare issues, because experts say keeping numbers of wild, stressed and mostly male fur seals confined ­together for days is untested and could lead to fights and injuries.

The plan is not supported by the state’s second-largest salmon producer, Huon Aquaculture, which has used new, toughened seal-proof fish pens to reduce the problem to the point where the company has now ended relocations. Huon attributes its success — only 25 seals relocated since the beginning of winter and none last month — to a recently ­completed $90 million rollout of ­double-netted “Fortress” fish pens.

Industry sources say Huon’s new patented pens have been so successful in keeping out seals that many thousands of “problem” seals have shifted to those Tassal fish farms that have older, less sturdy, plastic netting.

Tasmania’s Department of ­Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment confirmed it was considering Tassal’s request to “hold a number of seals in pens for a period of time prior to relocation”.

“The department is considering the request in line with issues including seal welfare, workers’ health and safety, business operations and legislative obligations,” a spokesman said.

Tassal sustainability chief Linda Sams confirmed the company had “applied to hold a number of seals prior to relocation”, after experiencing a rise in the number of seals and related re­locations. “The cost of relocation is an issue for us — it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage the situation humanely,” Ms Sams said. “But we believe this situation is temporary.”

Neither Tassal nor the department would provide details of the plan, such as how many days seals would be held, in what numbers, and the type and size of holding pens.

Ms Sams said Tassal was spending $50m a year on seal ­exclusion, including upgrading fish pens, boosting night-time pen surveillance and hiring more wildlife officers.

“We are confident the new nets we are acquiring will improve the outcomes,” she said. “We do not want to harm the seals.”

Huon Aquaculture managing director Peter Bender said fish pen design was the best solution.

“Preventing the seals from ­entering pens in the first place is the best and safest way of managing seals, as it protects the welfare of both the seals and our salmon,” Mr Bender said.

Seal shooting must end to keep salmon exports to USA

Daily Record, 5 October 2016

“Stop salmon farmers slaughtering our seals,” demands Dumbarton campaigner

By Marc McLean

John Robins, of Save Our Seals Fund, has taken his fight to protect seals to the Scottish and US governments


Dumbarton man has warned the Scottish Government to make it illegal for fish farmers to kill seals.

John Robins (pictured above), of Save Our Seals Fund (SOSF), is disgusted that fish farmers have been allowed to freely shoot and kill seals.

His calls for the Scottish Government to prevent this by law have failed.

However, the US government is now taking notice and may take action that could hit the fishing industry hard.

Killing mammals is a criminal offence in the States and from January 1, 2017, the Americans will no longer import salmon from fish farms where seals are being executed.

All exports of fish from Scotland to the USA could end – and this could lead to the fishing industry losing well over £200million per year.

Campaigner John Robins has had a direct influence on this move, having lobbied the US government since 2011 on this issue.

Dumbarton man John Robins, of Save Our Seals Fund, has taken his fight to the Scottish and US governments.

Earlier this year the American government agreed on an import ban and mentioned their correspondence with SOSF in their announcement of the changes.

John said: “The Scottish Government has got its knickers in a twist over this.

“They simply do not realise that if they fail to make shooting seals a criminal offence American customs officers will not let as much as a Scottish-caught pickled herring cross their border.

“Salmon farmers will lose well over £200million a year in exports.

“Killing seals should have been banned decades ago.

“I would not be surprised if in coming months we see fish farmers picketing parliament with ‘Save Our Seals’ and ‘Save Our Jobs’ banners.

“I am disgusted that I have had to use a foreign government to get protection for Scottish seals. The Scottish Government should be ashamed.”

Mr Robins has been lobbying the US government for five years because shooting seals is much cheaper than humanely excluding them from fish farm cages.

By allowing farmers to shoot seals, the Scottish Government gives them a huge financial advantage over American fish farmers where killing mammals is outlawed.

Mr Robins wrote last month to Roseanna Cunningham MSP, cabinet secretary for the environment, calling for the government to take swift action in light of the US announcement.

He received a reply from Ian Walker of Marine Scotland, which stated that the Scottish Government did not intend on making it illegal for fisheries to shoot seals.

Mr Robins has written to MSP Cunningham again, saying: “Ian Walker obviously believes it is up to individual fish farmers to decide for themselves if they want to continue with licensed shooting of seals and not export to the USA or if they want to stop shooting seals and continuing exporting to the USA.

“The onus to take action is on the Scottish Government, not individual salmon farmers.

“If the Scottish Government does not make it illegal for fishery and aquacultural interests to deliberately kill seals then it will be illegal for the United States of America to import any fish and fish products from Scotland.

“Once again I urge the Scottish Government to end the seal shooting licensing system and replace it with a law making it a criminal offence for anyone to deliberately kill a healthy seal.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are currently considering Mr Robin’s latest letters of September 23 and 27 and will reply to him in due course. We introduced legislation which brought in a seal licensing system in Scotland.

“This has put an end to unregulated shooting of seals.

“Arrangements which previously applied in closed seasons now apply all year round. If granted, seal licences will authorise shooting of a limited number of seals as a last resort within an area and for a specified period.”


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.


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.”