As the focus to protect public health and keep fresh food in UK supermarkets continues, the salmon farming sector has welcomed the steps taken by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to create a temporary protocol which protects farmers’ health while maintaining fish welfare and environmental standards.

During the Covid-19 pandemic salmon farms are protecting workers’ health by reducing the workforce to minimum levels while keeping a supply of fresh, healthy fish in the UK food chain. 

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) has been working with SEPA and Marine Scotland to determine pragmatic ways for farmers to manage sea lice with due regard for the environment.

READ MORE: What are sea lice?

The discussions around the use of veterinary medicines have drawn on the salmon farming sector’s experience of collaboration and co-ordinated treatments at strategic times, like the spring, to achieve effective results to protect farmed salmon and to minimise any risk to wild salmon.

Bath treatments will be permitted over a shorter time period with higher peak concentrations though there will be no increase in the overall quantity of medicines used. This will allow workers to move around the farms more quickly.  Bath treatments may be administered in the pens using a tarpaulin and, or, in well-boats.

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In-feed medicine SLICE continues to be used to manage sea lice. Acknowledging the benefits of an in-feed treatment at a time when fewer workers are available, SEPA has permitted the use of appropriate levels of SLICE on a small number of sites, which are not currently able to use enough of this medicine to administer an effective treatment.

Anne Anderson, Sustainability Director for SPO, said:

“The absolute priority is protecting public health and companies are keeping staffing levels as low as possible and adopting Government advice.  At the same time, the sector has a responsibility to keep fish healthy and follow regulatory protocols and we are pleased that SEPA and Marine Scotland have worked with us to find a suitable balance between protecting workers’ health and good standards of fish health and environmental management. 

“As the pandemic continues we will work closely with SEPA and other regulators and organisations to ensure that they are well informed about actions taken on farms and to anticipate any further changes that may be needed in the future.”

The SSPO has already reached an agreement with SEPA and Marine Scotland to allow fish to remain in the water for longer to cope with fluctuations in the market during this COVID-19 outbreak. Click here to read more.

SEPA's update on its regulatory positions can be read by clicking here.

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