Best practice in action –

Best practice in action Published:  01 June, 2010

THE restocking of a large salmon-growing area off the south-west coast of Shetland has been hailed as an example for “best practice in action”.

Following an outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) at the beginning of last year, hundreds of thousands of fish had to be slaughtered and cages had to lie fallow for an extended period.

Some estimates suggest that the ISA outbreak will cost the Shetland salmon farming industry as much as £30 million in lost income after producers in the area lost a whole year of production.

Since the beginning of this month however, all companies affected have restocked cages following a groundbreaking area management agreement plan.

Last Thursday, Scottish Sea Farms, the second largest fish farming company in Shetland, said it had invested heavily into new equipment as well as 1.2 million smolts.

Grieg Seafood has also invested in new equipment and restocked cages in the area.

As part of the management agreement only fish of the same year class can be stocked in the whole west of Scalloway area, which will result in a significant reduction in the number of fish farming sites.

Scottish Sea Farms said its £1.6 million investment includes the installation of new three-ring fully decked cages, nets and a state-of-the-art feed barge which will ensure the highest possible standards of fish husbandry.The company’s chief executive Jim Gallagher said: “The restocking of Scalloway also gives the opportunity of additional volumes of Shetland salmon at a time when there is significant shortage of supply in all markets. These volumes will help Scottish Sea Farms support the market demand from our valued UK customers as well as to develop growth in export markets.”

General manager of industry body Shetland Aquaculture, David Sandison, said the industry had learned the lessons of the past and have implemented a “robust” system of co-operation.

“We are not quite out of the whole ISA control regime yet. We still have to go through two years of continued surveillance in this area,” he said. “The idea is to restock a certain number of sites now to make sure the new arrangements are working fine, and build it up gradually and sustainably over a number of years.

“It is a single year class, all go in at the same time, all come out at the same time and the fallowing period thereafter will be at the same time – it is best practice in action.”

Sandison acknowledged that working practices and co-operation among companies in the area could have been better prior to the ISA outbreak in winter 2009, when sea lice problems and other diseases had plagued producers.

“We recognise that the new working agreement was necessary because we did not have the right level of co-operation before,” he said.

“We came to the point that we actually had to fallow the area as a result of having sea lice problems and disease challenges, we had to make sure that we minimised the chances of it happening again.”