Holyrood Committee releases their findings on the impact of salmon farming; RECC report on Scotland’s salmon farming

Holyrood Committee releases their findings on the impact of salmon farming



Urgent action needs to be taken to improve the regulation of the Scottish salmon farming industry and to address fish health and environmental challenges, a Holyrood Committee has concluded.

Following its in-depth inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has determined that, if the industry is to expand, there is a need to introduce enhanced and more effective regulatory standards to ensure that fish health issues are properly managed and the impact on the environment is kept to an absolute minimum.

The Convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Edward Mountain MSP, said:

“The salmon farming industry offers significant economic and social value to Scotland, providing jobs and investment in rural areas. There is a desire within the industry to grow. However, if this is to happen, it is essential that the serious challenges it faces such as the control of sea lice, lowering fish mortality rates and reducing the sector’s impact on the environment are addressed as a priority. Our report contains 65 recommendations on how this should be taken forward.

“If the reputation of Scottish salmon as a premium product is to be maintained, Scotland’s salmon farmers must demonstrate responsible and sustainable production methods. Importantly, the Committee is strongly of the view that the status quo in terms of regulation and enforcement is not acceptable, and that we need to raise the bar in Scotland by setting enhanced and more effective standards.”

In addressing specific fish health challenges, the Committee noted that while there has been a variety of actions by the sector to address sea lice infestations, there is still not an effective way to deal with the parasite. It is strongly of the view that there should be a mandatory approach the reporting of sea lice infestations. The Committee considers that the sea lice compliance policy must be robust and enforceable with appropriate penalties.

The Committee also deems the current level of fish mortalities to be too high in general across the sector and is concerned about extremely high mortality rates at particular sites. It is of the view that no expansion should be permitted at sites which report high or significantly increased levels of mortalities, until these are addressed to the satisfaction of regulators.

In terms of environmental impact, the Committee noted recent SEPA research which concluded that medicine from Scottish salmon farms “is significantly impacting local marine environments”. The Committee is therefore in no doubt that effective regulation of medicine used by the farmed salmon industry is a key requirement. The Committee also considers it to be essential that waste collection and removal from salmon farms is addressed as a matter of urgency.

The Committee makes several recommendations on the siting of salmon farms:

  • A precautionary approach must be taken to address any potential impact of sea lice infestation from salmon farms on wild salmon. There should be an immediate and proactive shift towards locating new farms in more suitable areas away from wild salmon migratory routes.
  • Until such time as an enhanced regulation and enforcement is in place, the precautionary approach to applications for new sites and expansion of existing sites should be firmly and effectively applied. The Scottish Government should provide strong and clear leadership to ensure this occurs.
  • A more strategic approach should be taken to identify those areas across Scotland that are either suitable or unsuitable for siting of salmon farms.
  • There should be immediate dialogue with the industry to identify scope for moving existing poorly sited farms.
  • Examining the scope for siting salmon farms in suitable offshore locations should be treated as a high priority.

The Rural economy and Connectivity Committee launched the enquiry into Salmon Farming in Scotland earlier this year, and took evidence from aquaculture research bodies, environmental organisations, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, salmon farming representatives, and regulatory bodies including Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, SEPA and the Crown Estate.

Further information on the Committee’s inquiry can be found on its webpage.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee published their report in March 2018 inform the REC Committee’s wider inquiry into the current state of the industry.

A report commissioned by SPICe and undertaken by SAMS Research Services Ltd (SRSL) on a review of environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland is available here. This report contains a review of literature on the environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland, the scale of the impacts and approaches to mitigating the impacts.


Media Coverage (Nov. 27.2018 @ 8.30 CET










S&TCS warmly welcomes the Rural Economy Committee’s report on salmon farming

NB: See the Draft posted here (as ‘The report’): https://www.salmon-trout.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/EMBARGOED-00.01-27.11.18-Salmon-farming-in-Scotland-report.pdf

Scottish Government must now act quickly to put in place greater protection for wild salmon and sea trout.


Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) has warmly welcomed the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s report on salmon farming, published today.

The report builds on the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s report published in March.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor for S&TCS, commented:

“This Report is a strong vindication of the campaign S&TCS has spearheaded for some years now, and the arguments we have been putting forward, often in the face of sharp criticism from both the industry and Scottish Government alike. We are pleased to see that the REC Committee has recognised that the law is currently insufficient to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the damaging impacts of salmon farming.

We now look to Scottish Government to grasp the nettle and move quickly to legislate to improve markedly the protection of wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of salmon farming.”

Key conclusions and recommendations in the REC Committee’s report include:

  • “….if the industry is to grow, the Committee considers it to be essential that it addresses and identifies solutions to the environmental and fish health challenges it faces as a priority” (Recommendation 1)
  • “….urgent and meaningful action needs to be taken to address regulatory deficiencies as well as fish health and environmental issues before the industry can expand” (Recommendation 2)
  • Sea lice triggers to be “…challenging” and Government urged to “set a threshold that is comparable with the highest international industry standards” (Recommendation 15)
  • “…a move away from a voluntary approach to compliance and reporting with regard to sea lice infestation” (Recommendation 16)
  • In relation to breaches of sea lice levels, “enforcement action… has not been sufficiently robust to date. It is therefore of the view that if the revised compliance policy is to be effective it must be robust, enforceable and include appropriate penalties” (Recommendation 17)
  • Sea lice data in real time to be published in real-time, made mandatory and “the data provided should be that which is required to inform the regulatory and enforcement regimes, as opposed to that which the industry itself takes it upon itself to produce” (Recommendations 19 to 21).
  • “the Committee is….of the view that a precautionary approach should be taken which will seek to minimise the potential risk to wild salmon stocks wherever possible” (Recommendation 40)
  • “the Committee suggests that the siting of salmon farms is key to managing any potential risk to wild salmon stocks and ensuring that the sector is managed responsibly” (Recommendation 41)
  • on the issue that none of the existing regulatory bodies currently has responsibility for the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks, “the Committee believes that clarity must be provided by the Scottish Government as to how this apparent regulatory gap will be filled and which agency will assume responsibility for its management”. (Recommendation 44)
  • “The Committee shares the view of the ECCLR Committee that the siting of farms in the vicinity of known migratory routes for wild salmon must be avoided” (Recommendation 45)
  • “The Committee is of the view that a…precautionary approach must be taken in Scotland to assist in mitigating any potential impact of sea lice infestation on wild salmon. It therefore recommends that there should be an immediate and proactive shift towards siting new farms in more suitable areas away from migratory routes and that this should be highlighted in the strategic guidance on the siting of salmon farms”. (Recommendation 46)

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

“Scottish Government has a clear duty to safeguard the coastal environment and those species, including wild salmon and sea trout, that depend upon healthy coastal ecosystems.

We applaud the REC Committee’s report, which cuts through many years of Scottish Government and industry spin and prevarication. The onus is now on Scottish Government to act without delay to implement the Report’s recommendations, giving wild fish much needed protection from sea lice and diseases emanating from salmon farms”.

This year’s Parliamentary inquiry into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, was triggered by S&TCS’ formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.