Sainsbury’s still selling mainland farmed salmon labeled as being from Skye, Lewis or Uist –

Sainsbury’s still selling mainland farmed salmon labeled as being from Skye, Lewis or Uist Published:  22 July, 2013

Sainsbury’s still selling mainland farmed salmon labeled as being from Skye, Lewis or Uist, almost eight weeks after apologising publicly for the ‘error’. Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) again calls on Sainsbury’s to justify its claims of ‘responsibly sourcing’ or withdraw them

On 20th May 2013, the Salmon & Trout Association (Scotland) (S&TA(S)) made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards concerning claims made on Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ Scottish salmon in relation to the geographical origins of the product and the unsubstantiated claims of “responsible management to protect and maintain the natural environment” at the farms concerned.

The S&TA(S) today expressed its amazement to find that almost eight weeks after Sainsbury’s admitted errors in attributing their product to the “fast flowing sea water locations around the Isles of Skye, Lewis and Uist”, Sainsbury’s in England are still stocking ‘Taste the Difference’ smoked salmon from mainland fish-farms in Argyll labeled as being from Uist, Lewis or Skye.

Hughie Campbell-Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), said:

“The almost unbelievable state of affairs, whereby Sainsbury’s is continuing to pass off mainland farm-reared salmon as having come from the Hebrides, is bad enough.

The claims of responsible management at the farms concerned, as Sainsbury’s puts it, to protect and maintain the natural environment, need to be justified. If Sainsbury’s cannot justify their claims, then they must stop making them.”

The farms concerned are Rubha Stillaig, Meall Mhor and Tarbert South, all in Argyll.

Rubha Stillaig and Meall Mhor – have both been inspected in the past by the Fish Health Inspectorate and those inspections showed that sea-lice levels on the farmed fish were over the thresholds set down in the industry’s Code of Good Practice for the period that records were inspected, suggesting that the farms were posing a significant risk to wild salmonid populations.

Wild salmon and sea-trout smolts (small fish leaving rivers to go to sea for the first time) become heavily infested with parasitic sea-lice, produced and released in their billions on fish-farms, and many die as a result.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA (Scotland) said:

“Unfortunately it is not possible for the public to find out the extent or duration of any breaches of sea lice thresholds at individual fish-farms – or what their performance is like today – so the public cannot choose which fish-farms, producers and supermarkets to avoid.

This underlines just why we need publicly available weekly sea lice data on an individual farm basis and why Scottish Ministers were so wrong to prevent such a measure being included in the recently passed Aquaculture and Fisheries Act 2013”.

The problems at these farms have not been limited to sea lice issues.

The Fish Health Inspectorate noted in 2009 that the circular cages at Rubha Stillaig, known as polar circles, were “buckled” and “could implode” posing a risk of a mass escape of farmed fish, these fish being of Norwegian origin. Escapee farmed fish are a major problem for the survival of wild salmon. Already one quarter of wild salmon sampled in Scotland’s aquaculture zone have Norwegian genes. A 2013 RAFTS study, funded by the Scottish Government, looked for Norwegian genes in wild salmonid populations in the ‘aquaculture zone’ of the west coast of Scotland, the ‘signature’ of hybridization found was significantly higher than expected by chance. Across all sites, 369 out of 1472 (25.1%) individuals were identified as hybrids.

The sea-bed under and around the cages has also been polluted with uneaten food and fish faeces at Rubha Stillaig. On 19th May 2011, an inspection of the seabed under the farm led to an unsatisfactory benthic (sea bed) pollution report from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) which SEPA regards as “an indication that the emissions arising from the site in question are of a scale that is beyond the assimilative capacity of the local environment.” The same was true for Meall Mhor were surveyed on 16th February 2009, the benthic pollution levels were recorded as being unsatisfied and showing a “marked deterioration of benthic conditions compared to previous surveys”.

In 2011, the farm at Meall Mhor was also recorded as breaching the Environmental Quality Standard for chemical residues in the sea-bed 100m from the fish cages. The EQS is designed to protect marine wildlife – especially wild crustacea such as crabs, lobsters and prawns, from the toxic effects of the pesticide chemicals used on the farms to control sea-lice on the farmed fish.

The S&TA(S) has again reported Sainsbury’s to Trading Standards (in relation to the erroneous geographical claims made on their products) and to the Advertising Standards Authority (in relation to substantiation of claims of ‘responsible sourcing’ made on the Sainsbury’s website).