An open letter to the First Minister of Scotland
Dear First Minister,
We, the undersigned, urge you to issue a moratorium to halt continued expansion of the Scottish salmon farming industry.
A global network of NGOs has recently launched an investigation into Scottish salmon farms, which exposes horrific conditions that cause suffering and environmental damage.
The investigation includes extensive evidence of sea lice infestations, seaweed growing in open wounds, fin erosion, infections, diseases, and dead salmon exposed to wildlife. These horrifying conditions are entirely unacceptable and, we believe, in some cases already breach existing animal welfare law.
Welfare issues are endemic across the industry. The appalling conditions shown in the investigation were documented on farms owned by all five of Scotland’s largest salmon producers, which together account for over 96% of the industry.
The inquiries carried out by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and the Rural Economic Committee (ECCLR), and the ongoing work of the Farmed Fish Health Framework Steering Group to improve industry standards, are welcome. However, insufficient progress has been made towards the REC’s 2018 recommendations for “urgent and meaningful action...before the industry can expand”.
Unnecessary salmon deaths due to disease, parasites, injuries, and negative reactions to handling remain incredibly high. In fact, up to a quarter of salmon die in cages before slaughter.
Sea lice loads are far higher than those considered acceptable to ensure good welfare. This causes direct suffering, and the methods used to reduce the number of lice (e.g. thermolicers) are cruel and ineffective.
Cleaner fish (used to remove sea lice) also suffer from many welfare issues, and mortality rates are extremely high. Any surviving the production cycle die inhumanely, without prior stunning.
Huge quantities of dead salmon are dumped in landfill sites, exposed to wildlife – a serious biosecurity risk. Fish faeces and other organic waste from farms can cause algal blooms – from which fish cannot escape – and chemical waste released can be toxic to other fish, birds, and mammals.
The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 places a duty of care on those responsible for farmed salmon to safeguard them from unnecessary suffering, promote their welfare and prevent distress. This includes providing a suitable environment, diet, opportunity to express normal behaviour, and protection from diseases, pain, and suffering. However, this investigation suggests that many of these requirements go largely unmet by the industry.
Scottish salmon is a globally renowned product, but that reputation is being undermined by widespread failings to protect animal welfare and the environment. Plans for massive industry expansion by 2030 are irresponsible, given the serious problems found on these farms.
The Scottish Government must urgently instate a moratorium on the growth of the salmon farming industry with a view to phasing out intensive salmon farming.