Dramatic rfise in use of fish farm chemicals, claims BBC probe Published: 28 January, 2011
SCOTLAND’S fish farmers are dramatically increasing the level of chemicals to treat sea lice infestation, according to a major new investigation.
The investigation, by BBC Scotland, and due to be aired on BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday morning (10.30 am) claims that the increase and range of these chemicals has taken place over the past five years, and in some cases the rise has been by as much as 163 per cent. Much of the data is said to have come from the Scottish government’s own figures.
The programme hears from campaigners who say the industry is losing control of sea lice numbers and argue that sea lice on farms leads to increased infestation levels on wild fish and contributes to the decline in stocks of wild salmon and sea trout. They claim that chemicals also have the potential to destroy other marine life.
Fish lice have been blamed for damaging salmon and sea trout stocks. But environmental groups claim the figures are evidence the natural parasite is becoming resistant to the treatments. Andrew Wallace, from the Association of Salmon Boards, told the BBC that when young fish migrate from rivers to the sea they can be susceptible to naturally occurring sea lice.
He said: “Now, in normal circumstances there aren’t that many lice around, and the lice that are around originate from existing wild fish populations. But if you have a million farmed fish in a cage on the migratory route of those fish, then suddenly you’re encountering an entirely different scale of problem. And the numbers of lice coming off of these farms is horrendous at times.”
An environmental lawyer called Guy Linley Adams has been hired by wild fish groups concerned at the impact of sea lice infestations. However, Dr John Webster of the Scottish Salmon Producers Association, said any legal action would be disappointing. He said: “I think it’s slightly ironic that an organisation that’s accused the industry of threatening and bullying tactics should resort to taking a company to court.
“I think it’s very disappointing that our critics should at this stage in proceedings decide to withdraw from that debate to suggest that there’s no point in working together any more and should use more draconian and threatening tactics to try and persuade us to do things.”
The Scottish Government said: “The reasons for increased use of sea lice medicines are quite complex and almost certainly due to a number of factors. In order to be certain of the reasons, much more information would be required on where, when and how use has been made of sea louse medicines, but in general increasing use is not in itself necessarily a matter for concern.”