Scotland’s salmon farmers are working hard to ensure fresh food continues to reach retailers during the COVID-19 outbreak. In adherence to social distancing requirements farm and processing sites are operating with the fewest possible staff.

This is to protect the health and wellbeing of those working and that of the public. It is also to ensure appropriate standards of welfare for fish and the environment are maintained.

In order to help the sector achieve this, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued a temporary change in regulatory controls around fish biomass limits.

Biomass limits define the amount of livestock a farm can hold at any one time. In aquaculture it refers to the overall weight of fish on the farm. This current adjustment will allow some increases where deemed necessary and where justified, in full dialogue with SEPA.

These short-term changes by SEPA do not affect the Scottish salmon sector’s long-term commitment to minimise its environmental impact.

Farmed salmon and wild salmon

The stop-gap SEPA biomass decision has been taken following appropriate environmental risk assessments, including consideration to minimise any impact on wild salmon smolts through their migration period from river systems to open sea.

In order to comply with this temporary SEPA position all efforts must be made by operators to ensure:

  • biomass limits are only exceeded at sites at which, based on an environmental risk assessment, the likelihood of environmental harm is low; and
  • biomass is maintained within biomass limits at sites where environmental risk resulting from exceeding the limits is greatest.

In areas with a high likelihood of smolt interaction there will be no increase in biomass limits, in areas with a medium risk there can be a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increase. Farms sited in low risk areas will be allowed an increase up to, but not exceeding 25 per cent.

Throughout this period Scottish salmon companies will be in regular dialogue with SEPA to ensure that all parties are aware of issues and have mitigation plans in place to minimise any short-term environmental issues.