Mark MacAskill, Sunday Times, 9th September 2012

Salmon farms turn sea bed into graveyard


DOZENS of salmon farms around the Scottish coastline have been dumping unacceptable levels of pollutants into the sea.


The impact of Scotland’s £500m aquaculture industry, which supplies many of Britain’s top chefs, including Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay, is revealed in the results of sea bed surveys released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).


The surveys, carried out over the past three years, cover more than 250 fish farms run by 23 companies. Some farms have been surveyed more than once. Sepa classed 137 of the surveys (44%) as unsatisfactory, indicating high levels of organic matter, such as fish faeces and uneaten food, on the sea bed.


Such waste can disrupt biodiversity by killing off flora and fauna. A further 64 (21%) of surveys were deemed borderline — defined as close to having an unsustainable impact on the environment — and 106 (34%) were satisfactory.


The findings have prompted fresh criticism of aquaculture as a “dirty industry” and renewed calls for chefs to boycott farmed fish. Stein and Ramsay declined to comment.


According to Sepa, the companies with the poorest records included Wester Ross Fisheries: 70% of its reports were classed unsatisfactory and 30% were borderline. Of the surveys of sites run by Loch Duart — which, according to its website, supplies Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, and Ramsay’s Maze in London — 68% were unsatisfactory.


The Salmon and Trout Association (STA), which obtained the surveys under freedom of information laws, said the industry’s expansion in Scotland was a concern.


“This report is a damning indictment of the salmon farming industry and makes a mockery of its claims that it operates in harmony with the wider environment,” said Hughie Campbell-Adamson, chairman of the STA.


Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, defended the industry and said 87% of Scotland’s fish farms received “excellent” or “good” ratings from Sepa last year.


Mark Macaskill

Published: 9 September 2012 (c) Sunday Times