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Animal Concern Advice Line News

Continued Call for a Moratorium on Salmon Farm Expansion

December 13th 2017: Suitably dressed for the weather in his Save Our Seals Fund sou´wester John Robins has reiterated his call for a moratorium on the planned massive expansion of salmon farming in Scotland. This follows reports on BBC's One Show which revealed the risks in transporting some of the 10,000,000 salmon which die in Scottish farms every year to toxic waste disposal units hundreds of miles away.

To Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Aquaculture & Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for the Environment and Animal Welfare,
The Scottish Government,

Dear Cabinet Secretaries,

In October this year I wrote to you calling for a moratorium on the expansion of marine salmon farming due to my concerns over the huge numbers of salmon dying from disease, sealice infestations and poor practises in the use of mechanical sealice removal.

One area of particular concern to me was the risk posed by the road transportation of diseased morts long distances from island and remote coastal farm sites to incinerators as far away as Widnes in England. As you know wild salmon and seatrout populations are in decline, most likely in part due to sealice from salmon farms. It would be ironic if, in dealing with disease on their farms, salmon farmers were further putting wild fish stocks at risk by contaminating rivers while transporting their morts to facilities capable of dealing with their toxic waste.

On 21st November Ms Lisa Johnston of Marine Scotland replied to my e-mails on your behalf. In her e- mail she stated; ”The disposal of dead fish and aquatic animal by- products (ABPs) is covered by the Animal By- Products (Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 2013. Morts are normally classed as Category 2 ABPs and must be disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible manner in accordance with these Regulations.

If the above statement issued on your behalf is supposed to reassure me I'm afraid more evidence has emerged to reinforce my belief that salmon farming mort disposal presents a risk to numerous rivers with populations of wild salmon and seatrout.

A two-part investigation into mort disposal featured on the BBC 1 “One Show” programme last night and the night before. In his report broadcast on Monday 11th December journalist Joe Crowley followed a convey of four lorries carrying morts from Scottish Sea Farms at Loch Kishorn to what was described as a “chemical processing plant” 300 miles away in Dumfries and Galloway. That road journey crosses numerous salmon and seatrout rivers

Please watch the first part of the report shown on The One Show of 11/12/2017 and available on BBC iPlayer for the next few days. Six minutes, 7 seconds into the programme there is a clear shot of fluid flowing out of the back of one of the mort transporters. This could easily wash into any number of salmon rivers and their tributaries as the mort convoy crosses bridges over these waters. Do you think these morts are being “… . disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”?

Ms Johnston also said in her letter written on your behalf that salmon farming ”… is recognised as one of the most efficient means of producing animal protein for a growing population. While supportive of aquaculture, the Scottish Government has been consistent and clear that growth must be demonstrably sustainable, protecting our natural assets on which the industry and others depend.”

In the second part of his report Joe Crowley interviewed Gilpin Bradley, Chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation. Mr. Crowley asked Mr. Bradley about the 22,500 tonnes of mortalities reported by the Scottish salmon farming industry last year. Mr Gilpin stated; “In reality the mortality rate, our losses, are running in line with averages we have achieved over the last few years.”

That figure of 22.5 thousand tonnes equates to over 10,000,000 fish per year which is about 25% of total Scottish salmon production. Do you Mr. Ewing and Ms Cunningham honestly believe as was stated on your behalf that such rates of losses are acceptable and do they suggest to you that the Scottish salmon farming industry is “… one of the most efficient means of producing animal protein … .” and “ … . demonstrably sustainable …”?

Cabinet Secretary Cunningham, I would like you, as the Minister with responsibility for animal welfare, to tell me if you believe it is acceptable for 10,000,000 salmon per year to die from causes including infestations of sealice slowly eating them alive and blocking their gills, diseases which cause haemorrhaging and skin and eye damage and mishandling including being cooked alive by equipment meant to remove sealice by subjecting them to warm water? As is recognised in Scottish law fish are sentient animals with the ability to feel stress and suffer pain yet many millions of them are suffering and dying every year under your watch.

I ask yet again for the Scottish Government to impose an immediate moratorium on the expansion of the Scottish salmon farming industry at least until a full review of the current situation can be carried out to ascertain if salmon can be farmed humanely and sustainably without causing great damage to wild fish populations and the wider marine environment.

I also request that the industry be ordered to provide, at its own expensive, Government approved facilities to dispose of its own toxic waste on or near site to avoid the risks associated with transporting such dangerous waste many hundreds of miles.

I also ask that you instruct SEPA to fully investigate the incident shown this week on The One Show to determine if any laws or regulations concerning the disposal of hazardous toxic waste occurred during the transport of morts from Scottish Sea Farms at Loch Kishorn to the chemical processing plant in Dumfries and Galloway.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins,
Save Our Seals Fund