ALL Scotland’s salmon farmers are now represented by the industry body following the re-admittance of Grieg Seafood Shetland, it was announced today.
In a letter to Rural Economy minister Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) confirmed that the company, which was expelled from the SSPO in 2014 following a dispute over smolt imports, had rejoined the fold.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, who took over as CEO of the SSPO a year ago, wrote to Ewing asking the government to tighten sea lice enforcement measures to ‘help keep momentum’, which has seen record low levels of the parasite in the past year.
She said she had the agreement of everyone in the industry for the request as ‘we now have Gireg Seafood Shetland Ltd in membership’.
Salmon farmers have called for a reduction of the enforcement trigger level from eight to six and the reporting threshold from three to two adult, female lice.
‘To maintain the direction of travel, we recommend a further tightening of the enforcement trigger level to four from February 2020,’ wrote Hesketh-Laird.
The SSPO, she added, was committed to improvement, and was responding to recommendations in the recent Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) committee report that the status quo was not an option for the industry.
‘One area we urge the Scottish government to address as a priority is that of the lice levels that are currently used to initiate regulatory oversight on a farm by farm basis,’ said Hesketh-Laird.
‘The industry wide approach to sea lice management of pursuing prevention over cure has made significant strides.
‘Published SSPO data shows that industry-wide sea lice levels on farms are broadly at their lowest since detailed reporting began in 2013.
‘This achievement has in large part been down to industry’s development of its integrated approach to parasite management using all the tools and techniques available.
‘This has reduced reliance on medicines and has built a broader tool box of options for parasite control.’
These controls included the use of lice shields, fallow periods and synchronous farming, mechanical measures such as thermolicers and hydrolicers, approved medicines when needed, and the use of cleaner fish, plus continuous good husbandry.
The SSPO also urged SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to move ‘swiftly’ to bring forward its proposed regulatory changes to ‘end the considerable operational uncertainty and regulatory constraints currently hampering progress’.
In 2014, Grieg Seafood reportedly transported more than one million live smolts from Norway to Shetland without the quarantine period mandated by the Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture.
The company has since appointed a new managing director, Grant Cumming, with wide experience in the Scottish salmon sector.
‘I’m very pleased for the company to be part of the SSPO membership,’ said Cumming. ‘While companies each pursue their own business strategies, it is evident that having a strong trade organisation to research, refine and represent our views on common issues is vital.
‘The SSPO offers considerable value to the industry across its technical, sustainability and communications functions and I’m sure we will benefit by contributing to its activities.’
Picture: Grieg managing director Grant Cumming