Addressing the Scottish sea lice issue

The underbelly of a wild juvenile sea trout infested by sea lice caught within two miles of one affected farm Photo: Salmon and Trout Association Scotland The underbelly of a wild juvenile sea trout infested by sea lice caught within two miles of one affected farm Photo: Salmon and Trout Association Scotland

Scotland’s Salmon and Trout Association has demanded that the Scottish Government “stop prevaricating” and order an immediate cull of farmed salmon in light of the latest sea lice data.

The organisation says that latest data, published by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), shows that in the third quarter of 2013 sea lice numbers were “massively out of control” in the North West Highlands.

Worst affected farms include eight salmon farms run by Loch Duart Ltd, seven farms operated by Wester Ross Fisheries Ltd and Scottish Sea Farms Ltd and four fish farms operated by Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd and the Scottish salmon Company. The farms all had average lice counts which between nine and 12 times the industry’s threshold.

But these claims that levels are “too high” has been dismissed by the SPPO as “an arbitrary concept invented by the Salmon and Trout Association.”

Angela Kelly, spokesperson for SSPO, said to World Fishing & Aquaculture: “As anticipated, there are some spikes in the numbers due to very warm weather and increase in water temperatures this summer. In fact, the same phenomenon also affected some wild fisheries.”

“But the areas affected are a very small proportion of the total number of salmon farming areas. It is expected that the numbers will fall as temperatures drop. By the time of the next report we fully expect the situation to be resolved.”

She told WF&A that it’s very disappointing that this situation, which is being professionally and properly managed, will undoubtedly be the subject of yet further, disproportionate media allegation by the wild fisheries groups.

Unfortunately she said, the threshold for sea lice treatment in the industry’s Code of Good Practice is being portrayed by the angling groups as a "pseudo legal threshold" rather than a marker for good management practice.

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