Scotland’s salmon farmers have stopped using acoustic seal deterrents that have been shown to disturb protected marine mammals. The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said that only acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) that have been shown to comply with both the requirements of Marine Scotland and US regulations are now being used by its members.
ADDs are used by fish farmers, as well as the offshore construction sector, to deter marine mammals and protect people, farmed stock and installations. There has been concern, however, that some devices can disturb and disorientate cetaceans such as whales and dolphins.
Anne Anderson, Director of Sustainability for the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said: “Scottish salmon farmers are not using any acoustic deterrent devices that may have been considered to endanger cetaceans such as dolphins, porpoises and whales. All devices the sector does not have total confidence in, with regards to the harming of protected species, have been turned off and removed from the marine environment.
“It is critical however that farmers have deterrents available to protect their livestock from seal predation. As such the Scottish salmon farming sector is committed to, where necessary, only using acoustic devices that have been scientifically proven to be compliant with the US Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA).”
The MMMPA puts a bar on seafood imports from jurisdictions where “harmful” ADDs are operated. Marine Scotland has been asked to report to the Scottish Parliament on how it thinks Scotland should seek to comply with the US rules.
Anne Anderson added: “We call on Marine Scotland to work with the sector to develop a science-led approach which enables the use of deterrent devices and supports research and innovation in this area to ensure that farmers can continue to deploy these tools, which play a useful role in managing seal predation and improving animal welfare.”
The SSPO’s statement notes that new generation acoustic deterrent devices have been developed to use a different range of frequencies and volumes to help deter seals, while better safeguarding cetaceans. The SSPO is also working with academic institutions to encourage the development of effective ADDs that can protect fish without harming other species.
Nathan Pyne-Carter, chief executive of aquaculture technology business Ace Aquatec, said: “Our cutting edge deterrent innovation has been supported by a number of Scottish Government grants, including from SMART: Scotland and Cefas, to help us bring to the market an alternative to the previous style of devices. We are pleased to hear that the industry has committed to use next generation deterrents like those that we manufacture in the UK and distribute globally.
“Scottish fish farmers have a legal and moral duty to protect the welfare of their fish and the losses caused by seal attacks can have a significant financial and operational impact on a key Scottish sector which is currently also facing many other challenges.”
Ace Aquatec and other companies, such as GenusWave, have developed “next generation” ADDs that can deter seals without causing harm to protected species.