Fish farmer invites sea lice audit observers

Scottish-based salmon farmer Loch Duart has invited independent observers from a fisheries conservation organisation to monitor its regular sea lice checks.

Biologists from the West Sutherland Fisheries Trust (WSFT) will attend sea lice monitoring and other health checks at Loch Duart’s sites, which are in the north of Scotland. The move is intended to address any concerns that weekly self-reporting by salmon farmers – a statutory requirement in Scotland since March this year – is not subject to objective independent verification.

The WSFT was established in 1996 to monitor and protect wild fish stocks – especially wild salmonid populations – in West Sutherland, a largely unspoilt and wild environment. Loch Duart previously partnered with the organisation in 2018 on a sea trout tracking project in Loch Laxford, and has now agreed a programme for regular monitoring by the WSFT.

Trust biologists will visit four different farm sites each month to observe the lice counts, monitor procedures and record the results. They will review the data from all sites to establish consistency with the findings at those visited, given the prevailing environmental and biological conditions.

The WSFT will provide Loch Duart with a monthly report on their site visits and findings which will be published on both the Loch Duart and the WSFT websites.

Dr Shona Marshall, Senior Biologist at the Trust, commented: “We believe that being able to observe routine sea lice counting on a regular basis on farm sites will allow us to comment objectively on the quality of the lice data that is being submitted. It will also help us to better understand what is happening in our sea lochs and what the level of potential lice impacts on wild fish might be.”

Mark Warrington, Managing Director at Loch Duart, said: “This independent audit fits Loch Duart’s policy on stewardship of the environment and transparency to local stakeholders. The initiative is a continuation of our support for all bodies involved in caring for the local environment.”