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March 2nd 2021

Scotland's salmon farming sector and regulator work together to overcome Covid-19 challenges

New figures published by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation today (02.03.21) show the limited extent to which salmon producers have used the derogations authorised by environmental regulators last year to help the sector cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Only one in five Scottish salmon farms have had to use new rules allowing them to keep fish in the water for longer and only one in 20 have used the flexibility on medicine use.

The SSPO said the willingness of Scotland's environmental regulator to introduce a more flexible approach had helped salmon farmers cope with the impacts of both Covid-19 and Brexit even though only a small minority of sites had used the new flexibility.

Working collaboratively with the salmon farming sector the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) introduced a new level of flexibility on positions in March 2020 to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The relationship has allowed both parties to anticipate changing circumstances and led to agreement on temporary positions regarding biomass limits (the weight of fish in pens), treatments and compliance monitoring while Scottish salmon farmers maintained a crucial supply of fresh food to customers.

The newly released figures show that across the sector, 21 per cent of sites (44 from 210 farms) applied to make use of the additional peak biomass position, of which only 36 sites have, to date, made use of the position.

This gave farmers the option of increasing peak biomass across those sites by an average 16 per cent, approximately 13,000 tonnes to 92,000 tonnes. The average length of time where biomass volumes were increased was just 40 days.

In terms of the position on medicine use, just nine sites used the option which provided the opportunity for treatments at these sites to be performed in a shorter time period.

Anne Anderson, Director of Sustainability at the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said:

"This regulatory flexibility, which has been used sparingly by our members, has supported the salmon farming sector while safeguarding fish health and welfare throughout this extraordinary period. The decision of companies to conduct site risk assessments has also protected the environment."


Notes to Editors:

  • The SEPA regulatory position for finfish aquaculture established a restricted formal notification process to enable additional peak biomass to be allowed at sites which met the risk assessment criteria. This enabled a range of 10-25% additional peak biomass to be held at farming locations. Permissions allow for up to 10% in high risk areas, 20% in medium and 25% in low risk areas.
  • To prioritise Covid-19 regulation obligations this position agreed, in line with other environmental licences, that the requirement to undertake environmental monitoring survey work which occurs at the end of a farming cycle by specialist staff and contractors did not need to be met.
  • From April to end September 2020 SEPA also set a regulatory position which supported farms, allowing them to undertake swifter medicinal bath treatments through requirement to meet an established set of risk assessment criteria.
  • Sector-wide 44 farms out of 210 applied to make use of the additional peak biomass position. To date only 36 sites (17 per cent of farms) have made use of the position, with only 2,100 tonnes (16 per cent of the additional capacity provided) of the provision being utilised.
  • The Scottish salmon farming sector provides direct employment for 2,500+ people and supports 10,000+ jobs in processing and the supply chain.
  • In 2020 the Scottish salmon sector launched their Sustainability Charter: A Better Future For Us All, detailing 5 pledges and 41 actions to ensure they are world leading in growing healthy, nutritious food in the most responsible and sustainable way.