The Scottish Government department responsible for marine and fisheries issues has rubber-stamped a fish-farm expansion programme in Wester Ross, despite the site having a poor record of sea-lice controls. Marine Scotland Science (MSS) raised no objections to the application by Wester Ross Fisheries Limited, to install 46 steel pen fish cages at its existing fish-farm at Ardmair, Loch Kanaird.
The publication of the responses to the application has revealed that MSS's conclusion was that “strategies for dealing with sea lice are satisfactory as far as can reasonably be foreseen.” However, evidence gleaned under Freedom of Information requests by the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) show that the fish farm has been characterised by lice levels in excess of Code of Good Practice thresholds, coupled with serious concerns over the use and efficacy of available treatments.
Wester Ross Fisheries' application has been hotly contested by wild fish interests. Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TA(S), said: “If anything can be ‘reasonably foreseen’ at the Ardmair farm, in our view it is certainly not that sea-lice control is likely to be effective. Sea lice infestations now being seen on wild sea trout in the Two Brooms area are related to the fact that the numbers of adult sea lice per fish on the hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon in the vicinity earlier this year were in effect out of control. A reservoir of adult breeding female lice on farmed fish in farms like Ardmair will have produced many millions of juvenile sea lice to populate the local marine environment. Inevitably juvenile wild salmon and sea trout, migrating from local rivers, will have been and are being infested with devastating consequences.”
Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor to the S&TA Aquaculture Campaign, added: “For Marine Scotland Science to come out with such bland ‘identikit’ assurances, given what their own information shows, is unforgiveable.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Marine Scotland’s assessment supports the application to reduce cage, biomass and stocking densities as this should lead to improvements in sea lice management at Ardmair.”