MSPs warning over salmon farming impact on environment

salmon farming

Scotland’s marine ecosystem faces “irrecoverable damage” from salmon farming if environmental concerns are not addressed, according to MSPs.

Holyrood’s environment committee said fish mortality was at “unacceptable levels”.

A report concluded that there has been little progress in tackling environmental problems since 2002.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation insisted it was committed to long-term sustainability.

Salmon is Scotland’s single biggest food export – worth £600m – and is estimated to provide nearly 2,500 jobs.  Thousands more are supported by the aquaculture sector in rural and coastal communities.

But it has faced continuing problems tackling parasitic sea lice, which attach themselves to the fish and can be transferred to wild salmon.

With the industry planning a huge expansion over the next decade, the committee said Scotland is at “a critical point in considering how salmon farming develops in a sustainable way in relation to the environment”.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the use of chemicals to treat lice and the risk of killing the salmon by bathing them in warm water to “shock” the lice into falling off.

The Report

The environment committee came to 12 conclusions, including:

  • There has been little progress tackling environmental concerns since 2002, even though the scale and impact of the concerns has grown
  • Further expansion without addressing the environmental issues would be unsustainable and “may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment
  • An “ecosystem-based approach” is needed for growth which identifies where new farms can be located without impacting on the environment
  • The sector is not being regulated sufficiently or effectively


The report also called for a “precautionary” approach to expansion of the industry based on outstanding environmental concerns being resolved. It added: “The status quo is not an option.”

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation said: “Until the report is officially published and the industry has time to read and consider its findings we cannot make any specific comments.

“However, the industry takes this Inquiry very seriously and has provided written and oral evidence to the committee to highlight our commitment to long-term sustainability through high standards of fish health, husbandry and environmentally responsible production.

The report on the environmental impact of salmon farming is being sent to the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy committee which is conducting a wider inquiry into the sector.

Read the full report at BBC News.

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